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Fight Against Ore. Pipeline Has Ties to Youth Climate-Change Case

Youth plaintiffs in a federal case are alleging the federal government knew about the drastic effects of climate change, but did not do enough to slow its effects. (Robin Loznak/ZUMAPRESS.com)
Youth plaintiffs in a federal case are alleging the federal government knew about the drastic effects of climate change, but did not do enough to slow its effects. (Robin Loznak/ZUMAPRESS.com)
February 14, 2017

EUGENE, Ore. – A team of teenagers and young adults is moving closer to a courtroom showdown with the United States government over climate change and the impact it will have on young people's futures.

Last week, the young plaintiffs held a case-management conference with Federal Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin in Eugene and filed a notice with the court that replaced former President Obama with President Trump as a defendant in the case.

One of the plaintiffs, 20-year-old Jacob Lebel, says the case is rooted in a fight over the Jordan Cove natural-gas pipeline, which was proposed to travel within a mile of his family's farm in Roseburg.

"We actually named Jordan Cove in our complaint because a lot of the plaintiffs are from Oregon and a lot of them were affected by this project," he said. "So we kind of used it as a symbol of all that's wrong with the way that the federal government deals with these fossil-fuel projects and just approves them."

The 21 youths in the case range in age from nine to 20. Their complaint alleges the U.S. government has not done enough to phase out the use of fossil fuels, even though it knows fossil fuels are causing irreparable damage to the planet and endangering future generations. The case is expected to go to trial this fall.

The case received a big boost from U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken last year when she denied appeals from the federal government and fossil-fuel industry to dismiss the case. Lebel says they will be bringing science into the courtroom, directly challenging a Trump administration that contains many climate-change skeptics.

"I always like to say we're on a planetary deadline here, and I think the judges get that, especially under the Trump administration," he added. "So we're trying to move forward as fast as we can and they're really helping us streamline this right now - with some opposition, I'd say, from the federal government and the intervener defendants."

There will be another case-management conference on March 8. The youth plaintiffs are partnering with Our Children's Trust, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policy solutions to climate change on behalf of young people.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR