The reason I’m suing Donald Trump

The reason I’m suing Donald Trump
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I’m suing Donald Trump.

I’ve been an environmental lawyer at the Clean Air Council for 35 years. During that time, I’ve sued Sunoco Pipeline and Shell Chemical. I’ve sued the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I’ve sued the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. I go to court to protect and defend the people’s fundamental right to breathe clean air. But in my decades as an advocate for a sustainable environment and healthier communities, this is the first time I’ve sued a sitting president of the United States.

Donald Trump was certainly no stranger to litigation as a private citizen and lawsuits against President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers MORE and his administration have come at a record-setting pace. Clean Air Council has decided to join the long list of ongoing legal battles facing this White House for one simple reason: When the federal government denies climate change and knowingly endangers the people of this country by rolling back baseline environmental protections without cause, it violates the U.S. Constitution.

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By using junk science to dismantle basic efforts to combat climate change, the Trump administration has violated every American’s right to due process guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.

 

By willfully ignoring 50 years of government knowledge that climate change represents a clear and present danger, and by rolling back fundamental environmental protections, they’ve deprived us of our rights to life, liberty and property without due process. Rising levels of carbon dioxide jeopardize our ability to provide for basic human needs, safely raise families, practice our religious and spiritual beliefs and access clean air, water, shelter and food.

In less than a year, the Trump administration has reversed nearly a dozen established protections, from headline-grabbing crusades like withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement and approving the Keystone XL pipeline to actions less publicized but no less devastating, including reversing a rule limiting toxic discharge from power plants into public waterways.

The administration has attempted to justify all of these rollbacks with so-called “data” that stands in stark contrast to the scientific, technical and specialized knowledge that was used to develop these safeguards in the first place.

They even contradict the federal government’s own assertions on the dangerous effects of climate change. Executive Branch reports dating back to 1965 conclude that man-made pollutants like carbon dioxide hurt our nation’s economy and quality of life. Right now, in the case of Juliana vs. United States, the defendant (the U.S. government) is moving to trial with the understanding that climate change is not only real but caused by humans and poses a serious threat to our planet.

Trump is willfully ignoring the recent National Climate Assessment — research coming out of his own administration — which says human activity is warming the planet. He’s willfully ignoring the climate change impacts we’re seeing right now: 2016 was the hottest year on record, and 2017 has brought the devastating effects of California wildfires and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, among others.

By ignoring established scientific consensus and the actions of his predecessors on both sides of the aisle, Trump and his accomplices are willfully endangering the lives and welfare of our citizens. They have knowingly increased the damage, death and destruction that will result from climate change.

Of course, this clear and present danger goes beyond today or the next three years (a perspective Trump seems incapable of grasping). The very real dangers of climate change stand to impact future generations on a level we can barely comprehend. It is the federal government’s duty to protect these future generations.

Clean Air Council’s lawsuit also alleges violation of the public trust doctrine, which says the government has the right and duty to protect natural resources for the public's use now and for future generations.

Those future generations are counting on us. I’m a father and a grandfather. With these protections eroded, my grandchildren and Americans for generations to come are being stripped of their fundamental rights before they even have a chance to make their voices heard.

Trump seems focused on some ambiguous time in America’s past where the country was “great.” With this lawsuit, we are fighting for an American future where our grandchildren are guaranteed their inalienable right to a life-sustaining climate.

You want to know why I’m suing Donald Trump? That’s the real reason.

Joseph O. Minott, Esq, is the executive director and chief counsel for Clean Air Council.