Kids Go To Court Over Climate Change And Ask For Halt To New Fossil Fuel Permits

Twenty-one young Americans, including two from Colorado, are going to court this week for the latest development in their case against the U.S. government over climate change. The case, Juliana v United States, began in 2015. 

The case has been blocked numerous times by two presidential administrations. The hearing in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will decide whether or not the kids’ case can actually proceed to trial.

Danny Noonan, one of the lawyers working on the case through the nonprofit organization, Our Children's Trust, said the case is actually about the Constitution.

“They’re seeking a declaration of their fundamental constitutional rights to a climate system capable of sustaining human life and to be protected from government actions that infringe their rights to life liberty and property which includes things like personal securities,” Noonan said.

That’s the end goal of the lawsuit. The young plaintiffs are also seeking a temporary halt to all new fossil fuel permits on federal public lands during the appeals process. 

Kathleen Sgamma with the Western Energy Alliance doesn’t believe that fossil fuels or climate change are harming young people today and said their goals are unrealistic.

“They would certainly be affected immediately,” she said, “if they didn’t have oil and natural gas and other fossil fuels providing energy and electronics and their medicines.”

Over 1000 people are expected at a rally to support the plaintiffs near the courthouse in Portland, Oregon. The court is livestreaming the hearing.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated there was one plaintiff from Colorado. There are two.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUER in Salt Lake City, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.