As reported in the last edition of The Climate Report, a number of youth-oriented
nonprofit advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit in the name of minor
children against the federal government alleging breach of the
government's fiduciary duty under the "public trust
doctrine" to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Alec L. v.
Jackson, No. 1:11-cv-02235-RLW (D.D.C). The plaintiffs seek a
court order requiring the defendants to reduce carbon dioxide
emissions, such that global carbon dioxide emissions will peak by
the end of 2012 and decline by at least 6 percent per year
beginning in 2013.
There was a flurry of motions in the fall of 2011, culminating
with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of
California granting the defendants' motion to transfer the case
to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on December
6, 2011. When the case was transferred, several unresolved motions
were pending: (i) the plaintiffs' motion for issuance of a
preliminary injunction; (ii) the defendants' motion to dismiss
the complaint; (iii) a motion by the National Association of
Manufacturers ("NAM") to intervene in the case,
accompanied by a proposed motion to dismiss; and (iv) the
plaintiffs' motion to strike NAM's proposed opposition to
the plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction.
Activity continued after the case was transferred. On March 5,
2012, a group of individual companies and trade associations filed
another motion to intervene. In that motion, the potential
intervenors argued that any relief granted to the plaintiffs
requiring the government defendants to set greenhouse gas emissions
standards would impose considerable costs on the intervenors (or
their members) to retrofit their vehicles and equipment to meet
such standards, which could cause many of those businesses to shut
their doors. The potential intervenors also argued that the
government defendants and NAM could not adequately defend their
interests because the government defendants are not businesses with
business interests, and NAM's members have different business
interests than the intervenors.
In addition, the potential intervenors filed a proposed motion
to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the complaint (i) failed to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted; (ii) asserted
claims that were displaced by the Clean Air Act; and (iii)
presented a nonjusticiable political question.
On April 2, 2012, Judge Robert Wilkins granted the motions to
intervene after hearing oral argument from the parties. At the
hearing, Judge Wilkins also set a briefing schedule for the
defendants' motion to dismiss, with arguments on May 11, 2012,
and stayed the plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction
pending the resolution of the motion to dismiss.
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