EUGENE, Oregon — Two Eugene teenagers who contend the state is failing to take adequate steps to stave off climate change deserve their day in court, the Oregon Court of Appeals said in a decision announced Wednesday.
A Lane County Circuit Court judge should consider the merits of the teens' request for a public trust declaration, the appeals court said.
The appellate court added that a state judge should not have dismissed the lawsuit filed by 18-year-old Kelsey Juliana and 14-year-old Olivia Chernaik, The Register-Guard reported (http://is.gd/Uyf9KP) .
Circuit Judge Karsten Rasmussen ruled in 2012 that courts lack authority to order state officials to create and carry out a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Rasmussen called that a question for the legislative and executive branches of state government.
The appeals court ruling said state courts do have the authority to take up the issue.
The ruling "makes me feel very proud to be an Oregonian," Juliana said in a statement. "It validates the younger generation's voice and lets us know that we are listened to and considered, and that our future matters."
A three-judge panel of the appellate court heard arguments in January at the University of Oregon School of Law.
Oregon Justice Department lawyers have said it is up to the Legislature, with input from the governor and the public, to decide what if anything should be done to preserve the state's natural resources.
The Legislature adopted a carbon emission reduction plan in 2007 but the teens ask for further action to slow climate change.
Justice Department officials have 35 days to ask the state Supreme Court to review the appellate ruling. Department spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson said no decision has been made yet.
The lawsuit was filed in 2011 with support from the Eugene-based group Our Children's Trust. Similar suits brought by children have been filed in other states. The lawsuits are based on a legal principle known as the public trust doctrine, which holds that state governments keep the natural resources of a state in trust for current and future residents.
Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com