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Oregon Appeals Court Sends Climate Suit Back to Lane County Judge


A lawsuit brought by two Eugene teens against the state over climate change will get a second hearing in Lane County Circuit Court. The Oregon Court of Appeals Wednesday  ruledthe case has merit.

Attorneys for Kelsey Juliana and Olivia Chernaik argue that the Public Trust Doctrine requires the state to do more to curtail climate change. Lane County Circuit Judge Karsten Rasmussen dismissed it nearly 2 years ago, saying his court didn’t have jurisdiction to resolve the question. Chris Winter is with the Crag Law Center in Portland, which is representing the teens. He says the Court of Appeals ruling gives the girls their day in court.

Chris Winter: "That they're entitled to a declaration of whether the atmosphere and other trust resources must be protected by the legislature and by the executive and that they're entitled to a declaration of their rights under the law."

Kelsey Juliana: "This is excellent news for me. I'm thrilled. And this morning when we found out me and my mom looked at each other and we just sort of started crying tears of joy because this is what we've been waiting for."

Kelsey Juliana is one of the plaintiffs in the case. She says Oregon is now a leader in what she calls the fight for climate justice. The organization "Our Childrens Trust" is coordinating similar lawsuits in other states.

Oregon Justice Department officials have 35 days to ask the state Supreme Court to review the appellate ruling. Department spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson says no decision has been made yet.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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