Juliana v. United States, Case No. 6:15-cv-01517-AA

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Oregon)
Writing for the CourtAnn Aiken, United States District Judge
Citation339 F.Supp.3d 1062
Parties Kelsey Cascadia Rose JULIANA, et al., Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES of America, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date15 October 2018
Docket NumberCase No. 6:15-cv-01517-AA

339 F.Supp.3d 1062

Kelsey Cascadia Rose JULIANA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES of America, et al., Defendants.

Case No. 6:15-cv-01517-AA

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division.

Signed October 15, 2018


339 F.Supp.3d 1070

Julia A. Olson, Eugene, OR, Andrea K. Rodgers, Law Offices of Andrea K. Rodgers, Seattle, WA, Philip L. Gregory, Pro Hac Vice, Redwood City, CA, for Plaintiffs.

Clare Boronow, U.S. Department of Justice, Denver, CO, Erika Norman, Frank J. Singer, Marissa Piropato, Peter Kryn Dykema, Sean C. Duffy, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

Ann Aiken, United States District Judge1

In this civil rights action, plaintiffs—a group of young people who were between the ages of eight and nineteen when this lawsuit was filed; Earth Guardians, a nonprofit association of young environmental activists; and Dr. James Hansen, acting as guardian for plaintiff "future generations"—allege that the federal government is violating their rights under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Before the Court are two dispositive motions: federal defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (doc. 195) and federal defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 207). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Judgment on

339 F.Supp.3d 1071

the Pleadings is granted in part and denied in part, and the Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs filed this action in August 2015, naming the United States, President Barack Obama, and the heads of numerous executive agencies (collectively, "federal defendants") as defendants.2 Plaintiffs allege that federal defendants have known for more than fifty years that carbon dioxide ("CO2") produced by the industrial scale burning of fossil fuels was "causing global warming and dangerous climate change, and that continuing to bum fossil fuels would destabilize the climate system on which present and future generations of our nation depend for their wellbeing and survival." First Am. Compl. ¶ 1. Plaintiffs further allege that federal defendants have long "known of the unusually dangerous risks of harm to human life, liberty, and property that would be caused by continued fossil fuel burning." Id. ¶ 5. Plaintiffs assert that, rather than responding to this knowledge by "implement[ing] a rational course of effective action to phase out carbon pollution," federal defendants "have continued to permit, authorize, and subsidize fossil fuel extraction, development, consumption and exportation[,]" thereby "deliberately allow[ing] atmospheric CO2 concentrations to escalate to levels unprecedented in human history[.]" Id. ¶¶ 5, 7.

Plaintiffs contend that federal defendants' policy on fossil fuels deprives plaintiffs of life, liberty, and property without due process of law; impermissibly discriminates against "young citizens, who will disproportionately experience the destabilized climate system in our country[;]" and fails to live up to federal defendants' obligations to hold certain essential natural resources in trust for the benefit of all citizens. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief, asserting that there is "an extremely limited amount of time to preserve a habitable climate system for our country" before "the warming of our nation will become locked in or rendered increasingly severe." Id. ¶ 10.

In November 2015, federal defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (doc. 27) Federal defendants argued that plaintiffs lacked standing to sue; that plaintiffs' public trust claims failed as a matter of law because the public trust doctrine does not apply to the federal government; that plaintiffs' equal protection claims could not proceed because plaintiffs are not members of a protected class and the government's energy and climate policies have a rational basis; and that plaintiffs' due process claims were deficient because they had not alleged violation of a fundamental right.

Also in November 2015, three national trade organizations—the National Association of Manufacturers, American Petroleum Institute, and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (collectively, "intervenor-defendants")—moved to intervene under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a) and dismiss the complaint. (doc. 14 & 19) Like federal defendants, intervenor-defendants argued that plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. Intervenor defendants also argued that plaintiffs had failed to identify a cognizable cause of action and that dismissal was required because the

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case presented non-justiciable political questions.

In January 2016, Magistrate Judge Coffin granted intervenor-defendants' motion to intervene. Juliana v. United States , 2016 WL 183903, at *5 (D. Or. Jan. 14, 2016). In April 2016, following oral argument, Judge Coffin issued his Findings and Recommendation ("F & R"), recommending that the Court deny both motions to dismiss. (doc. 68) Federal defendants and intervenor-defendants filed objections to the F & R and the Court held oral argument in September 2016. (doc. 73, 74 & 81) Following that argument, in November 2016, the Court issued an opinion and order adopting Judge Coffin's F & R and denying the motions to dismiss. Juliana v. United States , 217 F.Supp.3d 1224, 1276 (D. Or. 2016).

In January 2017, federal defendants filed their Answer. (doc. 98) They agreed with many of the scientific and factual allegations in the First Amended Complaint, including that:

• "for over fifty years some officials and persons employed by the federal government have been aware of a growing scientific body of research concerning the effects of fossil fuel emissions on atmospheric concentrations of CO2 —including that increased concentrations of atmospheric CO2 could cause measureable long-lasting changes to the global climate, resulting in an array of severe and deleterious effects to human beings, which will worsen over time;"

• "global atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide are at unprecedentedly high levels compared to the past 800,000 years of historical data and pose risks to human health and welfare;"

• "Federal Defendants ... permit, authorize, and subsidize fossil fuel extraction, development, consumption, and exportation;"

• "fossil fuel extraction, development, and consumption produce CO2 emissions and ... past emissions of CO2 from such activities have increased the atmospheric concentration of CO2;"

• "EPA has concluded ... that, combined, emissions of six well-mixed [greenhouse gases] are the primary and best understood drivers of current and projected climate change;"

• "the consequences of climate change are already occurring and, in general, those consequences will become more severe with more fossil fuel emissions;"

• "climate change is damaging human and natural systems, increasing the risk of loss of life, and requiring adaptation on larger and faster scales than current species have successfully achieved in the past, potentially increasing the risk of extinction or severe disruption for many species;" and

• "human activity is likely to have been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-1900s."

Fed. Defs.' Answer to First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1; 5; 7; 10; 213; 217. Those admissions and federal defendants' other filings make clear that plaintiffs and federal defendants agree on the following contentions: climate change is happening, is caused in significant part by humans, specifically human induced fossil fuel combustion, and poses a "monumental" danger to Americans' health and welfare. See Juliana , 217 F.Supp.3d at 1234 n.3 (quoting federal defendants' objections to Judge Coffin's F & R recommending denial of the motions to dismiss). The pleadings also make clear that plaintiffs and federal defendants agree that federal defendants' policies regarding

339 F.Supp.3d 1073

fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions play a role in global climate change, though federal defendants dispute that their actions can fairly be deemed to have caused plaintiffs' alleged injuries.3

In January 2017, Barack Obama left office and Donald J. Trump assumed the presidency. In March 2017, both federal defendants and intervenor-defendants moved to certify the opinion and order denying their motion to dismiss for interlocutory appeal, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). (doc. 120 & 122) That same day, federal defendants sought a stay of proceedings pending this Court's resolution of the motion to certify for interlocutory appeal and the Ninth Circuit's resolution of that proposed appeal. (doc. 121) In April 2017, Judge Coffin denied the request for a stay. (doc. 137) In May 2017, Judge Coffin issued his F & R recommending that the Court deny the motions to certify. (doc. 146) Federal defendants and intervenor-defendants filed objections, and in June 2017, the Court adopted Judge Coffin's F & R and declined to certify the opinion and order for interlocutory appeal. Juliana v. United States , 2017 WL 2483705, at *2 (D. Or. June 8, 2017).

In May and June 2017,...

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