EUGENE, Ore. - Judge Ann Aiken heard arguments Tuesday on a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by 21 children and youth in an effort to force the federal government to develop a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions and "make sure that the future planet will be hospitable for generations to come."
Aiken heard from attorneys for the government and energy industry, as well as Julia Olson, the lead attorney representing the 21 plaintiffs.
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Olson argued the court has authority to order the federal government to develop a plan to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
"Instead they have kept the fossil fuel energy system in place that benefits the fossil fuel industry and not the people," Olson said after the hearing. Olson contends the federal government has known for more than half a century that fossil fuels are a danger to the environment.
Attorneys for the government and energy industry argue the case should be thrown out because the Clean Air Act contains mechanisms for appealing existing rules and regulations.
They contend a federal lawsuit is the wrong venue for the grievance.
The plaintiffs and the group Our Children's Trust see a court victory as a means to force the government to act.
Kelsey Juliana, the lead plaintiff, said the plaintiffs and their supporters "are advocating for your constitutional rights to life, liberty, property, the right to breath, the right to drink water."
Juliana predicted the hearing would be history in the making.
"It's only through the Constitution and the public trust doctrine that we can address and come to a viable solution for these for these childrens' future," attorney Philip Gregory with Our Children's Trust said.
That's the view of 11-year-old Avery McRae of Eugene, one of the plaintiffs.
"I know that I have a constitutional right to a stable climate and I know that one of the government's jobs is to make sure that the future planet will be hospitable for generations to come," she said.
Aiken told the parties she would attempt to return a decision within 60 days.
Outside the courthouse, students and supporters rallied in support of the plaintiffs.