Establishing the legal right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate
for all present and future generations

Oregon

Oregon TRUST plaintiff Kelsey Juliana talks with Bill Moyers about her lawsuit, spearheaded by OUR CHILDREN'S TRUST, that could force the state of Oregon to take a more aggressive stance against the carbon emissions warming the earth and destroying the environment. She also talks about her walk across the United States as part of the Great March for Climate Action, due to arrive in Washington, DC, on November 1.

Meet one of Oregon's youth plaintiffs, Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana from Eugene, who is passionate about preserving this beautiful Earth. TRUST Oregon is the 8th film in the award-winning 10-part documentary series Stories of TRUST: Calling for Climate Recovery.

Learn about local climate action in Eugene here.

Legal Updates

June 11, 2014:

Youth Win Reversal from Oregon Court of Appeals in Critical Climate Recovery Case

“Climate change is the biggest threat to our children,” said Julia Olson, Executive Director and Chief Legal Counsel of Our Children’s Trust. “Our political branches of government around the country have failed to meaningfully protect our fundamental rights to a healthy atmosphere. The Oregon Court of Appeals has affirmed the very purpose of our justice system to seek judicial review when other branches of our government violate our basic rights. The decision of the Oregon Court of Appeals affirms that youth deserve a judicial determination on whether the atmosphere is a natural resource that warrants governmental protection as a public trust resource. We are confident that the Oregon trial court will make the right determinations to protect our most precious natural resource on which all others rely: our atmosphere.”

Read the Court of Appeals decision here and the press release here.

January 16, 2014:

The Oregon Court of Appeals heard argument in the Oregon atmospheric trust case at the University of Oregon School of Law. Click here to watch the video recording of the hearing.

Read the press release here.

January 14, 2014:

Mary Wood and Michael Blumm wrote a guest viewpoint in the Register Guard on the Oregon atmospheric trust lawsuit.

January 14, 2014:

University of Oregon School of Law's press advisory on the January 16, 2014 hearing in the Oregon atmospheric trust case.

December 5, 2013:

Law professors Michael Blumm and Mary Wood wrote an opinion piece in the Oregonian about how the Oregon Attorney General's position in the the Oregon atmospheric trust case "completely undermines the state’s 150 ­year-old trust obligation owed to its citizens."

October 31, 2013:

The Oregon Court of Appeals has selected the Oregon atmospheric trust case to be argued at the University of Oregon School of Law on January 16, 2014. The lawsuit was filed against Governor Kitzhaber and the State of Oregon for failing to protect essential natural resources, including the atmosphere, as required under the Public Trust Doctrine. Kelsey Juliana, Olivia Chernaik, and their mothers brought the case to compel the Oregon State government to create a viable climate recovery plan for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in order to protect Oregon’s natural resources.

WHEN: Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 9:00 am
WHERE: University of Oregon, 1515 Agate St, Eugene, OR 97403

June 3, 2013:

Youth appellants file their reply brief before the Oregon Court of Appeals in response to the State's answering brief.

December 17, 2012:

Oregon Political Leaders, Businesses, Agricultural and Student Native Groups and Legal Scholars Support Youth In Climate Change Lawsuit

Two amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs were filed in support of Kelsey Juliana and
Olivia Chernaik’s appeal seeking to compel Governor Kitzhaber and the State of Oregon to take action to protect Oregonians from climate change by complying with their fiduciary duties under the Public Trust Doctrine. The amicus curiae brief on behalf of Oregon’s political leaders, businesses, agricultural groups and student native groups details potentially devastating impacts the state faces due to greenhouse gas emissions and climate instability, from ocean acidification to a decrease in agricultural productivity and significant decreases in snowpack and water supply. The Western Environmental Law Center also filed a separate amicus curiae brief on behalf of twenty-two top legal scholars from around the country urging the court to apply the Public Trust Doctrine to the atmosphere and allow the case to proceed.

Read the press release here.

December 10, 2012:

Attorneys for youth plaintiffs file their opening brief with the Oregon Court of Appeals.

October 9, 2012:

TRUST Oregon Film Released as Oregon's Court of Appeals Decides to Hear the Case

Learn the Story Behind the Youth Climate Case

The lawsuit was filed against Governor Kitzhaber and the State of Oregon for failing to protect
essential natural resources, including the atmosphere, as required under the Public Trust Doctrine. Kelsey Juliana, Olivia Chernaik, and their mothers brought the case to compel the Oregon State government to create a viable climate recovery plan for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in order to protect Oregon’s natural resources. “I hope the Court of Appeals understands the need to protect the atmosphere to ensure a livable planet for mine and future generations,” said 16-year-old Kelsey Juliana.

Today Kelsey’s story documenting her concerns over Oregon’s changing climate is being
released in TRUST Oregon, a mini-documentary film. Her film is the eighth film in the ten-part, award-winning documentary series Stories of TRUST: Calling for Climate Recovery featuring the voices of daring youth from across the country who are pursuing lawsuits and asking the ruling generation to hear their climate change concerns. TRUST Oregon will be part of the Climate Reality Project’s 24-hours of Reality on November 14 and has already been prescreened at the Women’s Congress for Future Generations in Moab, Utah.

August 2, 2012:

Two Oregon youth and their mothers, represented by the Crag Law Center, announced their decision to appeal a ruling dismissing their climate change lawsuit against Governor Kitzhaber and the State of Oregon for failing to protect essential natural resources, including the atmosphere, as required under the Public Trust Doctrine. At the same time, they are asking the Court of Appeals to send the case straight on to the Oregon Supreme Court through a rare certification process.

Read their brief, which includes a supporting declaration from climate scientist Dr. James Hansen. And check out the press release here.

Also, check out media coverage on the appeal from The Register-Guard and KVAL.

April 5, 2012:

The trial court granted the State’s motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs will appeal to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

January 23, 2012:

Hearing for State's Motion to Dismiss, 10.30 am Judge Karsten Rassmussen, Lane County Courthouse in Eugene Oregon.

Check out the press release here.

May 4, 2011:

Complaint was filed on behalf of Oregon plaintiffs by OCT partner Attorneys from the Crag Law Center, Chris Winters and Tanya Sanerib, and Oregon Attorney Liam Sherlock against the Governor's Office in the State of Oregon.

Climate Change Impacts in Oregon

The following is an excerpt from the complaint filed.

The Oregon legislature established the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (OCCRI) in 2007 to foster climate change research. The OCCRI concluded in 2010 that "[t]he human race is profoundly altering the composition of Earth's atmosphere, chiefly by burning fossil fuels, and there is strong evidence that these changes are responsible for much of the global increase in temperature since the mid 20th century.

The impacts in Oregon of human-caused climate change are predicted to be severe if carbon dioxide emissions are not curtailed in the near term. The OCCRI, in its most recent Climate Assessment Report, predicted that increases in average annual temperatures of 0.2- 1 degree F per decade would likely cause a wide range of adverse impacts that threaten Oregon's economy and environmental, including inter alia:

a. A reduction of Cascade snow packs by 50% by mid-century along with reduced summer precipitation will result in significant decreases in summer stream flows and water supply;

b. Impacts to Oregon's $1.6 billion per year agricultural industry, including drought, disease and limitations on the availability, quantity and costs of irrigation water as well as the displacement of current agricultural zones resulting, for instance, in the Willamette Valley no longer being viable for growing pinot noir wine grapes;

c. Increasing sea levels of at least 2-4 feet and greater storm intensity will result in severe coastal erosion, flooding, loss of beach areas and elevation, loss of coastal wetlands, and inundation of coastal infrastructure;

d. Changes to the marine environment including ocean temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen levels and acidity, which can inhibit the formation of calcium carbonate shell and skeletons for a wide range of marine organisms like oysters and plankton;

e. Increase wildlife in both western and eastern Oregon, and an increase in pests and diseases affecting Oregon forest species.

Climate change also poses risks to the health of all Oregonians. According to the OCCRI, "extreme weather (such as floods, droughts, severe storms, heat waves and fires) can directly affect human health as well as cause serious environmental and economic impacts." Among these impacts are the disruption of natural systems, which gives "rise to the spread or emergence of vector-, water-, and food-borne diseases in areas where they either have not existed or where their presence may have been limited." Other impacts include "increase[d] cases of allergies, asthma and other respiratory conditions among susceptible populations" due to "[a]ir pollution and increases in pollen count" and the exacerbation of "lung health problems" due to "exposure to smoke from wild land forest fires, as well as from the projected increases in air pollution levels in our region."

Climate change will also "impost substantial costs to Oregonians." One example is the coasts associated with fighting wild fires. In 2009, Oregon's Climate Leadership Initiative concluded that "there could be 50% more wildfire acreage by 202 and 100% more wild fire acreage by 2040 in Oregon" and that "[u]sing linear projects based on business-as-usual approach...firefighting costs in Oregon could increase to $97 million in 2020, $200 million in 2040, and $444 million in 2080." Such costs as these "may be substantially reduced if global GHG emissions and thus climate changes (precipitation and temperature variability) are lessened through GHG mitigation policies and adaptation.

In 2007, the Oregon Legislature passed HB 3543, which set the following goals for Oregon: by 2010, arrest and begin to reduce Oregon's greenhouse gas emissions; by 2020, reduce greenhouse gas levels to 10% below 1990 levels; and by 2050 reduce greenhouse gas levels that are at least 75% below 1990 levels. The goals set by Oregon Legislature in 2007 are inadequate to mee the State's greenhouse gas reductions that will be required in roder to protect Oregon's trust assets and attain carbon dioxide concentrations of 350 ppm.

According to Oregon Global Warming Commission, Oregon's per capita emissions in 2005 were 10 thousand metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) or total gross greenhouse gas emissions of 69,591,000,000 metric tons. Though lower than the national average, these per capita emissions are "nearly double the European Community Average."

According to the OCCRI, "[t]he sources of Oregon's greenhouse gas emissions can be broadly listed as energy [including transportation], agricultural, industrial process and waste management."

Oregon has the ability to curtail the greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon sequestration, and take the steps necessary to protect the public trust assets of the State from the adverse impacts of climate change. In 2004, the Governor's Advisory Group on Global Warming developed a detailed plan to reduce Oregon's emissions at least 75% below 1990 levels by 2050. The plan called for investment in energy, land use, and materials efficiency, replacing greenhouse gas-emitting energy technologies with cleaner technologies; and increase biological sequestration (or carbon capture and storage). Although Oregon's targets are inadequate to achieve the necessary reductions mandated by the best available science, the State has already developed a detailed implementation plant that includes a majority of the necessary greenhouse gas reductions.

Despite having a concrete greenhouse gas reduction and mitigation plan in places, Oregon is falling significantly behind the targets set by that plan. In 2008 and again in 2009, the Oregon Global Warming Commission found that Oregon is failing in its efforts to meet the 2020 and 2050 goals set by the legislature, which even in themselves would fail to achieve the necessary greenhouse gas reductions according to the best available science. As the Global Warming Commission found in 2009, "the state will likely fall well short of meeting its 2020 emission reduction goal, an, by extrapolation, clearly is not on track to meet its 2050 goal."

A zero-carbon energy system is still possible within the next thirty to fifty years. Actual physical emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels can be eliminated with technologies that are now available or reasonably foreseeable and at reasonable cost. The phase-out of fossil fuels by about 2050 is possible by implementing the following: 1) a cap on fossil fuel use that declines to zero by 2050 (or gradually rising carbon tax); 2) increasingly stringent efficiency standards for buildings, appliances, and motor vehicles; 3) elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels, nuclear energy and biofuels from food crops; 4) investment in a vigorous and diverse research, development and demonstration program that includes smart grid and storage technologies and electrification of transportation; 5) banning new coal-fired power plants and closing existing plants; 6) carbon-free state, local and federal governments; and 7) adoption of energy standards that gradually shift Oregon over to renewable energy sources.

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Oregon Complaint .pdf959.44 KB