A pair of new lawsuits claim that various government officials and agencies are violating youth plaintiffs' constitutional rights due to a failure to combat climate change sufficiently. In the first lawsuit, youth plaintiffs sued the state of Alaska, its governor and various other state officials and agencies in state court. The complaint alleges that the defendants violated the plaintiffs' due process, equal protection and public trust rights under the Alaska Constitution by causing and contributing to climate change through permitting fossil fuel development and insufficiently reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The plaintiffs are seeking a court order requiring Alaska to prepare an account of Alaska's greenhouse gas emissions and develop a climate recovery plan imposing an enforceable carbon budget on the state. The plaintiffs filed their complaint after the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) denied their August 2017 petition for a rulemaking, which called for DEC to issue a rule requiring the state to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 85% below 1990 levels by 2050, among other requests.

The Alaska case is supported by Our Children's Trust, which brought a similar lawsuit in the federal District of Oregon, which the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has stayed pending resolution of the United States' mandamus petition. In the second lawsuit, filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, an environmental group and two youth plaintiffs sued the United States, President Donald Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and their heads. That complaint alleges that specific Trump administration actions violated the plaintiffs' due process and public trust doctrine rights and requests a court order prohibiting what it characterises as the defendants' 'rollbacks'.

For further information on this topic please contact Samuel B Boxerman, Terence T Healey or Kenneth W Irvin at Sidley Austin LLP by telephone (+1 202 736 8000) or email ([email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]). The Sidley Austin LLP website can be accessed at www.sidley.com.