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Biden administration asks court to toss kids' climate lawsuit

Biden administration asks court to toss kids' climate lawsuit
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The Biden administration on Tuesday called on a U.S. district court to reject a second attempt by a group of children to sue the U.S. government over climate change.

The original lawsuit, filed in 2015 by 21 children and their allies, sought to force the government to phase out fossil fuel emissions. In 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue.

The 21 plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States filed a request in March to file a narrower, amended complaint. In its Tuesday filing, the government argued the proposed new filing would still lack standing under the 2020 ruling.

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“[T]he proposed amendment would be futile in this case because Plaintiffs’ new requests for declaratory relief are not materially different from their old ones,” it states. The filing notes that both the dismissed complaint and the proposed amendment cite the Declaratory Judgment Act and request that the court rule the government has violated the plaintiffs’ rights to due process.

“Because the Ninth Circuit has already determined that Plaintiffs’ request for declaratory judgment ‘is not substantially likely to mitigate the plaintiffs’ asserted concrete injuries,’ and thus fails the first prong of the redressability test … Plaintiffs’ proposal to assert a substantially identical request for relief must be denied as futile,” the filing states.

The filing further argues that the relief sought in the proposed new filing is functionally the same as that sought in the original complaint.

“Plaintiffs already tried to pare down the injunctive relief that they sought, contending at oral argument that they challenge only affirmative activities by the government even though the operative Complaint also challenged government inaction,” the filing states. “The Ninth Circuit rejected standing for injunctive relief on this pared down basis as well because ‘an order simply enjoining [the challenged] activities will not ... suffice to stop catastrophic climate change or even ameliorate’ Plaintiffs’ injuries.”

In its 2-1 majority last year, the three-judge 9th Circuit panel said it did not dispute the central claim of the lawsuit, that the federal government is partially responsible for the increase in carbon emissions and the resulting environmental damage.

“The record leaves little basis for denying that climate change is occurring at an increasingly rapid pace ... and establishes that the government’s contribution to climate change is not simply a result of inaction,” the majority wrote. “Copious expert evidence establishes that this unprecedented rise stems from fossil fuel combustion and will wreak havoc on the Earth’s climate if unchecked.”