Kids’ bid to block fossil fuels would derail economy — feds

Source: Ellen M. Gilmer, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, February 22, 2019

Government lawyers say a recent attempt by young litigants to halt federally approved fossil fuel development would “throttle important government functions superintending broad swaths of the national economy.”

Top Justice Department attorneys were responding to an unusual effort by plaintiffs in the so-called kids’ climate case to secure a court order suspending federal permits for pipelines, mining, oil and gas drilling, and other development.

The kids and young adults involved in the high-profile litigation — which aims to hold the U.S. government accountable for climate change impacts — made the long-shot request earlier this month at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Climatewire, Feb. 8).

The case, Juliana v. United States, is on appeal at the 9th Circuit after a district court in Oregon repeatedly rebuffed government efforts to sideline the lawsuit.

The 21 young litigants say they’re facing irreparable harm from fossil fuel development — and its attendant greenhouse gas emissions — taking place while the litigation is pending.

But DOJ lawyers called the request unprecedented and said it failed to meet the legal requirements for a preliminary injunction. Abruptly halting fossil fuel projects would not serve the public interest, they argued, because the energy sector employs millions of Americans and serves the nation’s fuel demands.

The brief also took aim at the plaintiffs’ argument that they are facing irreparable harm — one of the injunction requirements — because they are experiencing “deep anger, frustration, depression, and feelings of betrayal.”

“First, if this Court were to recognize feelings as irreparable injury, then every plaintiff who passionately disagrees with government action — i.e., most if not all plaintiffs — would satisfy the injury requirement,” the government told the court in a filing this week.

Moreover, DOJ argued, “Plaintiffs’ anger, frustration, and passion concerning climate change are properly addressed to, and by, the representative branches of our government.”

The 9th Circuit is expected to rule on the injunction request in the coming weeks or months. Oral arguments in the broader appeal are scheduled for June.