The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has given the green light to a lawsuit filed by young activists who say the federal government is failing to protect them from climate change.
But the Ninth circuit Court of Appeals in California has tossed that motion, allowing the lawsuit to proceed in these "very early stages", according to a decision reached today.
The lawsuit brought by 21 children and young adults asserts the government has known for decades that carbon pollution causes climate change but has failed to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The fossil fuel groups intervened in the case in 2016 as they joined with the federal government to try and have the case dismissed.
The children allege in their suit that the changing climate has been known for decades, but policies have not changed and their constitutional rights have thus been violated, according to the court documents.
"We need a constitutionally compliant energy system that doesn't destroy these people's lives - and the court can order that", Julia Olson, the plaintiffs' attorney, told Vice.
They claim that for more than 50 years, the office of the president and eight federal agencies promoted regulations to support the US energy industry's proliferation of fossil fuels, accounting for a quarter of the world's carbon emissions.
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Noting that the United States is a defendant in almost 20 percent of civil cases filed in federal court, Chief Circuit Judge Sidney R. Thomas wrote that federal rules of procedure anticipate defendants will sometimes face burdensome litigation. They are seeking a formal change of course when it comes to regulations.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Trump administration said that it is based on "utterly unprecedented legal theories" and it is unreasonable to use research that was conducted as far back as the Lyndon Johnson presidency.
U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken in Eugene a year ago denied the motion to dismiss the case.
"If appellate review could be invoked whenever a district court denied a motion to dismiss, we would be quickly overwhelmed with such requests, and the resolution of cases would be unnecessarily delayed", Thomas wrote.
"We are mindful that some of the plaintiffs' claims as now pleaded are quite broad, and some of the remedies the plaintiffs seek may not be available as redress", Judge Sidney Thomas wrote in the decision.
Barring an intervention by the Supreme Court, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken must now decide which government officials can be questioned in depositions. "However, the district court needs to consider those issues further in the first instance".