Supreme Court allows climate change lawsuit against US

The US Supreme Court [official website] rejected [order] a petition [text, PDF] from the US Solicitor General requesting an administrative stay of an environmental lawsuit regarding climate change.

The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court District of Oregon [official website] by a group of individuals between the ages of eight and 19, alleges that US policies over the past 50 years have increased CO2 concentrations that exposed the plaintiffs to the dangers of climate change.

The Solicitor General requested that the Supreme Court stay discovery and trial until the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] has made a decision on the Solicitor General’s request for dismissal of the lawsuit. The trial is scheduled to take place later this year and is expected to last 50 days. The Solicitor General argued that failure to grant the stay would result in forcing the government to “participate in a highly compacted period of discovery and trial preparation followed by a 50-day trial, all of which will itself violate bedrock limitations on agency decisionmaking and the judicial process imposed by the APA and the separation of powers.” The petition also requested that the Supreme Court directly dismiss the lawsuit.

The Supreme Court denied the petition for stay, stating that the request was premature. The court also stated that the justiciability of the claims in the lawsuit “presents substantial grounds for difference of opinion” and calls upon the District Court to “take these concerns into account in assessing the burdens of discovery and trial.

The lawsuit is considered to be a landmark [Lawsiteblog op-ed] climate change case. This case differs from several other recent climate change lawsuits that focus on industrial companies. This includes a nuisance lawsuit [Lawsiteblog report] filed by the State of California and the City of Oakland against several oil companies due to the burning of fossil fuels that was dismissed in June. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio filed a lawsuit [Lawsiteblog report] against several oil companies in January due to their role in climate change.

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