Oregon judge rules against teens for 2nd time in climate change lawsuit

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EUGENE, Oregon — Two Oregon teenagers who sought to force state lawmakers to work harder on a plan to reduce carbon emissions and help stave off climate change have struck out a second time with a state judge.

On Monday, Lane County Circuit Court Judge Karsten Rasmussen agreed with the state argument that a judge lacks authority to essentially rewrite state laws.

Rasmussen wrote that a decision in favor of the teens would violate the state's separation of powers doctrine, reports The Register Guard newspaper (http://is.gd/mq0aMp).

"Whether the court thinks global warming is or is not a problem and whether the court believes the Legislature's (greenhouse gas) emission goals are too weak, too stringent or altogether unnecessary is beside the point," Rasmussen wrote.

"These determinations are not judicial functions. They are legislative functions," he added.

He also rejected the teens' central arguments.

While Oregon's public trust doctrine holds that state governments keep the natural resources of a state in trust for current and future residents, it applies only to submerged and submersible lands. He disagreed with the teens' contention that it extends to the atmosphere, water, beaches and shorelands.

Rasmussen dismissed the case in 2012, saying it was a question for the Legislature and the governor. The state Court of Appeals ruled last year that he did have jurisdiction.

The case was filed in 2011, when plaintiffs Kelsey Juliana and Olivia Chernaik were 15 and 11 years old, with the help of Our Children's Trust in Eugene.

It is part of a coordinated effect to pressure governments to speed up efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum says she's pleased.

"We believe the Legislature is the appropriate policy setting to address climate change, and make a meaningful impact for future generations," Rosenblum said.

Plaintiffs' lawyer Christ Winter declined comment.


Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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