Court Hears Environmental Reform Case

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EUGENE, Ore. — Two young Eugene residents are suing the state of Oregon for environmental reform.

On Thursday, their case was heard by the Oregon Court of Appeals in front of dozens of law students and middle school students, during the court’s yearly trip to Eugene to hear cases in front of future lawyers and judges.

This case wasn’t only heard in front of the future generation but was about it.

“I’m very happy that I had my day in court, and I’m hoping for a strong decision in my favor,” said Kelsey Juliana.

The 17-year-old South Eugene High School student Kelsey Juliana is a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber. She along with a Eugene middle school student are demanding the government do more to protect Oregon’s natural resources.

“I really do believe this is the crisis for our generation as well as future generations, so I think it’s very important to have youth voices,” Juliana said.

That’s why also hearing this case were not only law students, but other middle school and high school students who came out to show support.

While some of those younger students admit the legal jargon might be a little difficult to filter through, they knew their colleague’s message was about them.

“I think it’s really cool that they are really taken action on the environment. It’s very important to keep it going,” said one middle school student.

They care about tougher environmental reform. The plaintiffs want the legislature and governor to execute a plan that reduces carbon emissions by 6 percent each year under the public trust doctrine. The plaintiffs say the climate change plan passed in 2007 is not adequate.

“They are seriously worried about the chances for survivability if we lose our water our food, if we have killer heat waves and droughts and sea level rise,” said Mary Wood, UO Law Professor.

But the three-judge panel is questioning whether the judicial branch has the authority to give these orders to the governor. Advocates of the case say they just want sustainability standards to be upheld.

“This case is all about the court just defining the parameters of the constitutional right to have survival resources remain intact and not substantionally impaired,” Wood said.

“This is the pressing issue. Climate change is affecting every social and environmental justice, I believe,” Juliana said.

It could be months before a decision is made. The Oregon Court of Appeals also heard two other cases on Thursday at the UO.

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