Alaska Supreme Court to Hear Youth’s Climate Change Lawsuit

October 9, 2019 by Dan McCue
Cecily, 9, and Lila, 7, sisters from Homer, Alaska, are plaintiffs in Sinnok v. Alaska, the climate lawsuit the accuses the state of causing climate change, endangering their lives, and destroying the life-sustaining resources they depend.

WASHINGTON – The Alaska Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit claiming the state’s policy on fossil fuels harms the constitutional rights of young Alaskans to a safe climate.

In 2017, 16 young people filed suit over a state statute that says it is the official policy of the Alaska government to promote fossil fuels.

The suit, Sinnok v. Alaska, is being supported by Our Children’s Trust, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting natural systems for present and future generations.

It claims that under the state’s constitution, water, fish, wildlife, air and the ocean are a public trust resource held for maximum benefit of its people.

On Wednesday, a central question before the court, as in previous federal and state lawsuits, will be the role of courts in shaping climate policy.

Attorneys for Our Children’s Trust previously represented Alaska youth in an unsuccessful 2011 lawsuit that sought court intervention because the state had failed to adopt measures to protect young people in Alaska from climate change.

The judge ultimately concluded that courts lack scientific, economic and technological resources that agencies can use to determine climate policy and it was best left in their hands.

A second lawsuit, and the one currently before the state Supreme Court, was filed in October 2017 by Alaskans who at the time ranged in age from 5 to 20.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Gregory Miller in October 2018 dismissed the lawsuit, citing the 2011 case and other precedents.

On Wednesday, a five-justice panel of the Alaska Supreme Court will hear an hour of oral arguments during which attorneys Andrew Welle, of Eugene, Ore., and Brad De Noble, of Eagle River, Alaska, will argue Judge Miller should have allowed the youth’s  case to proceed on constitutional grounds.

The lawsuit asserts human-caused climate change will be catastrophic unless atmospheric carbon dioxide declines.

Among damages already occurring, the suit says, are dangerously increasing temperatures, changing rain and snow patterns, rising seas, storm surge flooding, thawing permafrost, coast erosion and increased wildfires, ocean acidification and violent storms.

The lawsuit asked the court to declare that state actions have violated the plaintiffs’ fundamental rights to a stable climate system.

The plaintiffs also seek to have the state policy on fossil fuels declared invalid and an order directing the state to prepare an accounting of carbon emissions and create a recovery plan.

The hearing is being livestreamed here.

In The News

Health

Voting

Climate

Biden Administration Approves Nation’s First Major Offshore Wind Farm
Energy
Biden Administration Approves Nation’s First Major Offshore Wind Farm
May 11, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The Biden administration gave its final approval Tuesday to the construction and operation of the Vineyard Wind project -- the first large-scale, offshore wind project in the United States. The decision was announced by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. The... Read More

Biden Creates Climate Change Support Office
Climate
Biden Creates Climate Change Support Office
May 7, 2021
by TWN Staff

WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden signed an executive order Friday afternoon establishing a temporary  “Climate Change Support Office” within the Department of States. The order directs Secretary of State Antony Blinken to name a director of the office and to hire as many people as needed... Read More

Senate Reinstates Obama-Era Controls on Climate-Warming Methane
Climate
Senate Reinstates Obama-Era Controls on Climate-Warming Methane
April 29, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Wednesday to reinstate an Obama-era regulation intended to reduce methane gas leaks from oil and gas facilities. In September, former President Donald Trump rolled back the regulation, which required facility operators to regularly monitor their equipment and repair it or replace... Read More

Biden Aims For U.S. ‘Leadership’ On Climate, Announces Reduction in Emissions
Climate
Biden Aims For U.S. ‘Leadership’ On Climate, Announces Reduction in Emissions
April 22, 2021
by Daniel Mollenkamp

At a virtual summit on climate change attended by 40 world leaders on Thursday, President Joseph Biden announced that the U.S. would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by half over the next decade. Biden’s plan promises to lower greenhouse gas emissions 50-52% below 2005 levels by... Read More

Biden Opening Summit with Ambitious New US Climate Pledge
White House
Biden Opening Summit with Ambitious New US Climate Pledge

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will open a global climate summit with a pledge to cut at least in half the climate-wrecking coal and petroleum fumes that the U.S. pumps out, a commitment he hopes will spur China and other big polluters to speed up... Read More

DOT Taps First Chief Science Officer in Over 40 Years
Transportation
DOT Taps First Chief Science Officer in Over 40 Years
April 21, 2021
by TWN Staff

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Transportation Department is appointing a chief science officer for the first time in over four decades as part of a comprehensive effort to fulfill the White House's commitment to addressing climate change. In a related move, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced the... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top