EUGENE, Ore. (CN) – Oil and gas companies and the Trump administration are fighting a federal judge’s ruling that children have a constitutional right to an atmosphere that isn’t ruined by global warming.
The National Association of Manufacturers, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, and American Petroleum Institute joined the government’s motion to certify U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken’s November opinion for appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
Aiken in November refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by 26 children who claim the government violated their constitutional rights by refusing to take steps so that the Earth will be inhabitable when they grow up.
“Exercising my ‘reasoned judgment,’ I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society,” Aiken wrote in November.
Department of Justice attorneys under President Barack Obama acknowledged in the government’s response to the lawsuit that use of fossil fuels is a major source of CO2 emissions and that drastically increasing concentrations of the greenhouse gas “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.”
That admission puts President Donald Trump’s administration in an awkward position, as new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Friday denied the link between human activity and climate change.
The oil companies claim in their motion that the children’s lawsuit is barred by the political question doctrine and would reshape the federal government’s policies on energy and climate change without legislative or statutory authority.
According to a status report issued last week by Julia Olson, attorney for lead plaintiff Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana, the government never responded to a litigation hold letter requesting that it preserve all documentation of climate change science. Instead, the government prevented the children from gathering the information they need to prove their claims by removing scientific information that was publicly available on federal websites.
Instead of responding to the children’s discovery requests, the government used its time to prepare the motion for appeal, Olson says.
The oil and gas companies are represented by Marie Eckert with Miller Nash in Portland, Ore., and Frank Volpe with Sidley Austin in Washington, D.C.