9th Circuit Dismisses Youth Group Climate Change Lawsuit
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the youth advocacy groups Our Children's Trust and Earth Guardian against the United States Government that alleged climate-change related injuries caused by the federal government permitting, authorizing and subsidizing fossil fuel. The lawsuit included claims of psychological harm, impairment to recreational interest, exacerbated medical conditions and damage to property. The plaintiffs sought declaratory relief and an injunction ordering the government to implement a plan to phase out fossil fuel emissions and draw down excess atmospheric carbon dioxide.
The court's three-judge panel agreed with plaintiff claims of injuries and that factual dispute exists as to whether federal policies were a substantial factor in causing the plaintiffs' claimed injuries. However, they did not find that the claims were redressable by the court under Article III of the Constitution. The panel held that it was beyond the power of an Article III court to order, design, supervise, or implement the plaintiffs' requested remedial plan where any effective plan would necessarily require a host of complex policy decisions entrusted to the wisdom and discretion of the executive and legislative branches.
Constitutional requisites under Article III for the existence of standing are that the plaintiff must personally have: 1) suffered some actual or threatened injury; 2) that injury can fairly be traced to the challenged action of the defendant; and 3) that the injury is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision [SOURCE: Cornell Law School Website ].
The three-member panel "reluctantly concluded that the plaintiffs' case must be made to the political branches or to the electorate at large. District Judge Josephine L. Staton dissented saying "the government bluntly insists that it has the absolute and unreviewable power to destroy the Nation." She further went on to say "I would hold that plaintiffs have standing to challenge the government’s conduct, have articulated claims under the Constitution, and have presented sufficient evidence to press those claims at trial." Almost half of the 64 page opinion was Judge Stanton's dissent.