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Climate-change suit to proceed

Appeals ruling says girls can have day in court.


Two girls will have their day in court to argue Oregon's responsibility for coping with the impacts of climate change.

The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a lawsuit against the state was dismissed prematurely, and that a judge must hear arguments in Lane County Circuit Court.

The decision was a victory for Olivia Chernaik and Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana, who with their guardians filed the suit asserting that the state has violated the public trust in failing to protect the atmosphere from gases such as carbon dioxide.

The suit and others like it are being filed in several states under a "public trust" doctrine that children should hold adults responsible for climate change.

Judge Karsten Rasmussen dismissed it from Lane County Circuit Court without considering arguments. But the Court of Appeals opinion by Judge Erika Hadlock said the arguments should be laid out in court.

"That question cannot be answered until a court declares the scope of the public trust doctrine and defendants' (state) obligations, if any, under it," she wrote.

The lawsuit acknowledges that state officials have taken actions dating back to a task force in 2004.

Hadlock likened the suit to what the Oregon Supreme Court did in a 2009 challenge by Pendleton and other school districts to the adequacy of state funding. The high court ruled that while the Legislature had a legal obligation to fund schools, the Oregon Constitution is not specific about how lawmakers should achieve that — and the justices declined to impose a remedy.

"That aspect ... is consistent with a principle that the Oregon courts have articulated in other cases: That courts and the public are entitled to assume that the state will act in accordance with its duties as those duties are announced by the courts," she Hadlock wrote.

Joining her were Judges Joel DeVore and David Schuman. Schuman retired from active service earlier this year.

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