In the middle of May, Greens held a “Mass Action Against” the March Point refinery complex in Anacortes, Washington, complete with parades, campouts, drums, and finally, 52 arrests.
I wanted to discuss the hypocrisy of these fossil-fuel-dressed-fed-and-powered geniuses, but in skiffing around the fascinating Twitter page of one of these myopic nirvanists, I noticed an older post referring to something complicated, boring, yet important: “Washington State Kids Score Huge Legal Win in Climate Change Lawsuit” linked to a Huffington Post story – that in turn quoted some 14-year-old who was “among the eight kids who brought the lawsuit.”
Sound familiar? Yep. In 2011, I wrote about how a handful of Montana Greens fronted their kids, hoping the Montana Supreme Court would force our Legislature to pass global warming laws. The Montana Supremes unanimously shot down the complaint (argued by none other than the Flathead’s since-appointed district judge Amy Eddy), dismissed without a published opinion.
But that’s Montana.
According to a November 2015 AP story by reporter Phuong Le, “Our Children’s Trust [OCT] has been leading efforts to file lawsuits or administrative petitions in every state and against the federal government.” As an American Bar Association analysis explains, OCT strategy is to “use the common law public trust doctrine (and other common law claims) to compel government action.”
In other words, because climate changeists can’t advance their agenda by winning elections, they’re seeking control through the courts. Through a nationwide forum-shopping campaign, the carbon cultists hope to find that magic activist judge, willing to subvert the elected legislative process.
This totalitarian approach to “compelling government action” had little success until this April. But things changed with a 2014 Washington state complaint brought in Seattle “On Behalf of Youth Petitioners” by adult lawyer Andrea Rodgers Harris of the Western Environmental Law Center.
Our oldest hero kid was 12 then, the youngest seven. Now, were YOU suing the government when you were 12? Of course not! This is all about the grownups – for example, one plaintiff “walks, bikes or is driven to school in the family electric car” by her father. Green Dad is a mental health therapist (not for me, he’s not) and “part of the Climate Reality project, the Al Gore initiative, and volunteers his time to present ‘The Slide Show’ to any and all interested groups.”
Long story short, the Washington legislature would not pass what the Seattle Times called a “crackdown on carbon emissions” – an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Therefore, the “kids” sued in state court to force a regulatory end-run through the state’s Department of Ecology rulemaking process.
Judge Hollis Hill initially denied the “kids” petition last November, but when Ecology withdrew what was an unpopular proposal for a targeted $25 per ton carbon tax, the “kids” went back to Judge Hill. The judge imposed a rulemaking deadline of December 2016, writing “These children can’t wait, the polar bears can’t wait, the people of Bangladesh can’t wait.”
However, more important is OCT’s 100-page complaint brought in Oregon, assigned to federal magistrate judge Thomas Coffin. Here, 21 “children” (plus “Future Generations, through their Guardian Dr. James Hansen”) sued the United States for “continu[ing] their policies and practices of allowing the exploitation of fossil fuels.” They asked the court, among other things, to “implement an enforceable national remedial plan to phase out fossil fuel emissions.”
Not asking for much, are they?
On April 8, Magistrate Judge Coffin (who announced his retirement in January) took 24 pages to deny a motion to dismiss. While his ruling seems narrow, Coffin declared the plaintiffs present a “substantive due process claim” and there is “a need for the courts to evaluate the constitutional parameters of the action or inaction taken by the government.”
Now, it is hard to guess why Magistrate Judge Coffin (neither nominated by any president nor confirmed by Congress) agreed to consider moving to the trial stage: A last fling? Perhaps a legacy? To apply good law? Or is Coffin exactly the sort of activist OCT has dreamt about?
Dunno – and we won’t know for another few months. But whatever happens, don’t forget – it’s for our children. Really.