Aji P. v. State, No. 80007-8-I

CourtCourt of Appeals of Washington
Writing for the CourtSmith, J.
Decision Date08 February 2021
Parties AJI P., a minor child BY AND THROUGH his guardian Helaina PIPER; Adonis W., a minor child, by and through his guardian Helaina Piper; Wren W., a minor child by and through her guardian Mike Wagenbach; Lara F. & Athena F., minor children by and through their guardian Monique Dinh; Gabriel M., a minor child by and through his guardians Valery and Randy Mandell; Jamie M., a minor child by and through her guardians Mark and Janeth Margolin; India B., a minor child by and through her guardians, Jim Briggs and Melissa Bates; James Charles D., a minor child by and through his guardian Dawneen Delacruz; Kylie Joann D., a minor child, by and through her guardian Dawneen Delacruz; Kailani S., a minor child, by and through her guardian, John Sirois; Daniel M., a minor child, by and through his guardian, Fawn Sharp; and Bodhi K., a minor child, by and through his guardian Maris Abelson, Appellants, v. STATE of Washington; Jay Inslee, in his official capacity as Governor of Washington; Washington Department of Ecology ; Maia Bellon, in her official capacity as Director of the Washington Department of Ecology ; Washington Department of Commerce; Brian Bonlender, in his official capacity as Director of the Washington Department of Commerce; Washington State Transportation Commission; Washington Department of Transportation ; and Roger Miller, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Washington Department of Transportation, Respondents.
Docket NumberNo. 80007-8-I

16 Wash.App.2d 177
480 P.3d 438

AJI P., a minor child BY AND THROUGH his guardian Helaina PIPER; Adonis W., a minor child, by and through his guardian Helaina Piper; Wren W., a minor child by and through her guardian Mike Wagenbach; Lara F. & Athena F., minor children by and through their guardian Monique Dinh; Gabriel M., a minor child by and through his guardians Valery and Randy Mandell; Jamie M., a minor child by and through her guardians Mark and Janeth Margolin; India B., a minor child by and through her guardians, Jim Briggs and Melissa Bates; James Charles D., a minor child by and through his guardian Dawneen Delacruz; Kylie Joann D., a minor child, by and through her guardian Dawneen Delacruz; Kailani S., a minor child, by and through her guardian, John Sirois; Daniel M., a minor child, by and through his guardian, Fawn Sharp; and Bodhi K., a minor child, by and through his guardian Maris Abelson, Appellants,
v.
STATE of Washington; Jay Inslee, in his official capacity as Governor of Washington; Washington Department of Ecology ; Maia Bellon, in her official capacity as Director of the Washington Department of Ecology ; Washington Department of Commerce; Brian Bonlender, in his official capacity as Director of the Washington Department of Commerce; Washington State Transportation Commission; Washington Department of Transportation ; and Roger Miller, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Washington Department of Transportation, Respondents.

No. 80007-8-I

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1.

February 8, 2021


Andrea Kathryn Rodgers, Our Children's Trust, 3026 Nw Esplanade, Seattle, WA, 98117-2623, Andrew L. Welle, Attorney at Law, 1216 Lincoln Street, Eugene, OR, 97401, for Appellant(s).

Christopher Huriaux Reitz, Attorney at Law, Po Box 40117, 2425 Bristol Ct. Sw., Ecology Division A.g. Office, Attorney at Law, 2425 Bristol Court Sw. Second Fl., P O Box 40117, Olympia, WA, 98504-0117, Matthew D. Huot, Attorney General of Washington, Po Box 40113, Olympia, WA, 98504-0113, Sandra Christine Adix, Attorney General's Office/Agriculture Di., Po Box 40109, Olympia, WA, 98504-0109, Robert W. Ferguson, Office of the Attorney General, 1125 Washington St. Se., Po Box 40100, Olympia, WA, 98504-0100, for Respondent(s).

Jack Warren Fiander, Attorney at Law, 5808 Summitview Ave. #97, Yakima, WA, 98908-3095, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe.

Richard Kirk Eichstaedt, Eichstaedt Law Office, PLLC, 25 West Main Avenue, Suite 320, Spokane, WA, 99201, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of University Legal Assistance and Amicus Curiae on behalf of Faith Community.

Oliver Stiefel, Attorney at Law, 3141 E. Burnside St., Portland, OR, 97214-1951, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of League of Women Voters of Washington.

Wyatt Foster Golding, Ziontz Chestnut, 2101 4th Avenue, Suite 1230, Seattle, WA, 98121-2323, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.

Daniel James Von Seggern, Center For Environmental Law and Policy, 85 S. Washington St., Ste. 301, Seattle, WA, 98104-3404, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Environmental Groups.

Charles Marshall Tebbutt, Attorney at Law, 941 Lawrence St., Eugene, OR, 97401-2815, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Public Health Org. & Medical Doctors Public Health Officials.

Matthew Mattson, Mattson Rodgers dba Law Offices of Matth, 7723 Ne. 170th St., Kenmore, WA, 98028-3985, Kristi J. Denney, Attorney at Law, University Of Idaho, College Of Law, Moscow, ID, 83844-2321, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Business Amici.

PUBLISHED OPINION

Smith, J.

16 Wash.App.2d 183

¶ 1 The appellants are 13 youths (the Youths) between the ages of 8 and 18 who sued the State of Washington, Governor Jay Inslee, and various state agencies and their secretaries or directors (collectively the State) seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The Youths alleged that the State "injured and continue[s] to injure them by creating, operating, and maintaining a fossil fuel-based energy and transportation system that [the State] knew would result in greenhouse gas ("GHG") emissions, dangerous climate change, and resulting widespread harm." To this end, the Youths asserted substantive due process, equal protection, and public trust doctrine claims, among others. They asked the trial court to declare that they have "fundamental and inalienable constitutional rights to life, liberty, property,

480 P.3d 445

equal protection, and a healthful and pleasant environment, which includes a stable climate system that sustains human life and liberty." They further requested that the court "[o]rder [the State] to develop and submit to the Court ... an enforceable state climate recovery plan," and that it "[r]etain jurisdiction over this action to approve, monitor and enforce compliance" therewith.

¶ 2 We firmly believe that the right to a stable environment should be fundamental. In addition, we recognize the extreme harm that greenhouse gas emissions inflict on the environment and its future stability. However, it would be a violation of the separation of powers doctrine for the court to resolve the Youths’ claims. Therefore, we affirm the superior court's order dismissing the complaint.

BACKGROUND

¶ 3 Climate change poses a very serious threat to the future stability of our environment. Washington experienced the hottest year on record in 2020, and " ‘climate extremes like floods, droughts, fires and landslides are ... affecting Washington's economy and environment.’ " The parties to this case and this court readily acknowledge the

16 Wash.App.2d 184

fact that the federal and state governments must act now to address climate change. The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) said in December 2014, "Climate change is not a far off-risk. It is happening now globally[,] and the impacts are worse than previously predicted, and are forecast to worsen."1 It concluded that "[i]f we delay action by even a few years, the rate of reduction needed to stabilize the global climate would be beyond anything achieved historically and would be more costly."2 According to the Joint Statement on "Human Rights and Climate Change" (Joint Statement) signed by five United Nations human rights bodies, "[t]he adverse impacts identified in the [2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)] report[ ] threaten, among others, the right to life, the right to adequate food, the right to adequate housing, the right to health, the right to water and cultural rights."3 "The risk of harm is particularly high for those segments of the population already [marginalized] or in vulnerable situations[,] ... such as women, children, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and persons living in rural areas."4 "The IPCC report makes it clear that to avoid the risk of irreversible and large-scale systemic impacts, urgent and decisive climate action is required."5 Prompted by this knowledge, groups of determined youths around the United States have sought dramatic and necessary climate change action from their executive and legislative branches. When

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unsatisfied with the results, they have sought redress in the courts.

FACTS

¶ 4 In February 2018, the Youths filed a complaint against the State, Governor Inslee, Ecology, the Washington State Department of Commerce, the Washington State Department of Transportation, and the agencies’ directors and secretaries. The Youths detailed the harmful and dire effects of climate change, including serious threats to India B.’s6 family farm, to salmon populations that Wren W. considers "a source of spiritual and recreational beauty," and to James Charles D. and Kylie JoAnn D.’s home in the Taholah lower village of the Quinault Indian Nation.

¶ 5 The Youths presented six claims for relief: (1) violation of their substantive due process rights to "[a] stable climate system, ... an essential component to [their] rights

480 P.3d 446

to life, liberty, and property," (2) violation of their substantive due process rights under the state-created danger doctrine, (3) violation of their "[f]undamental [r]ight to a [h]ealthful and [p]leasant [e]nvironment" under RCW 43.21A.010 and article I, section 30 of the state constitution, (4) violation of the public trust doctrine by "substantial impairment to essential Public Trust Resources" through "[h]arm to the atmosphere[, which] negatively affects water, wildlife, and fish resources," (5) violation of their right to equal protection under article I, section 12 of the state constitution "as young people under the age of 18," who the Youths contend "are a separate suspect and/or quasi-suspect class," and (6) challenges to the constitutionality of RCW 70.235.020(1)(a) and RCW 70.235.050(1)(a)-(c).7

¶ 6 The Youths asked the court to declare that they "have fundamental and inalienable constitutional rights to life,

16 Wash.App.2d 186

liberty, property, equal protection, and a healthful and pleasant environment, which includes a stable climate system that sustains human life and liberty." They alleged that...

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5 practice notes
  • Sagoonick v. State, S-17297
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • 28 Enero 2022
    ...requiring the judiciary to evaluate state energy-related policies may present political questions Aji P. ex rel. Piper v. Washington, 480 P.3d 438, 447 (Wash. App. 2021) (concluding claims asking court to "address whether [Washington's] current [carbon emission] statutes and regulations suf......
  • Iowa Citizens for Cmty. Improvement v. State, No. 19-1644
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 18 Junio 2021
    ...political question grounds of a lawsuit seeking to use the public trust doctrine to achieve the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. 16 Wash.App.2d 177, 480 P.3d 438, 447–49 (2021) ; see also Kanuk , 335 P.3d at 1090–91 (finding claims seeking specific relief based on the public trust do......
  • Sagoonick v. State, Supreme Court No. S-17297
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • 28 Enero 2022
    ...requiring the judiciary to evaluate state energy-related policies may present political questions. Aji P. ex rel. Piper v. Washington, 480 P.3d 438, 447 (Wash. App. 2021) (concluding claims asking court to "address whether [Washington's] current [carbon emission] statutes and regulations su......
  • Iowa Citizens for Cmty. Improvement & Food & Water Watch v. State, No. 19-1644
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 18 Junio 2021
    ...on political question grounds of a lawsuit seeking to use the public trust doctrine to achieve the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. 480 P.3d 438, 447-49 (Wash. Ct. App. 2021); see also Kanuk, 335 P.3d at 1090-91 (finding claims seeking specific relief based on the public trust doctri......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Sagoonick v. State, S-17297
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • 28 Enero 2022
    ...requiring the judiciary to evaluate state energy-related policies may present political questions Aji P. ex rel. Piper v. Washington, 480 P.3d 438, 447 (Wash. App. 2021) (concluding claims asking court to "address whether [Washington's] current [carbon emission] statutes and regulations suf......
  • Sagoonick v. State, Supreme Court No. S-17297
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • 28 Enero 2022
    ...requiring the judiciary to evaluate state energy-related policies may present political questions. Aji P. ex rel. Piper v. Washington, 480 P.3d 438, 447 (Wash. App. 2021) (concluding claims asking court to "address whether [Washington's] current [carbon emission] statutes and regulations su......
  • Iowa Citizens for Cmty. Improvement v. State, 19-1644
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 18 Junio 2021
    ...political question grounds of a lawsuit seeking to use the public trust doctrine to achieve the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. 16 Wash.App.2d 177, 480 P.3d 438, 447–49 (2021) ; see also Kanuk , 335 P.3d at 1090–91 (finding claims seeking specific relief based on the public trust do......
  • Iowa Citizens for Cmty. Improvement & Food & Water Watch v. State, No. 19-1644
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 18 Junio 2021
    ...on political question grounds of a lawsuit seeking to use the public trust doctrine to achieve the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. 480 P.3d 438, 447-49 (Wash. Ct. App. 2021); see also Kanuk, 335 P.3d at 1090-91 (finding claims seeking specific relief based on the public trust doctri......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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