King County judge makes historic ruling against Washington State in climate change case – ‘These children can’t wait, the polar bears can’t wait, the people of Bangladesh can’t wait’Posted by Jim at Monday, May 02, 2016
By Sydney Brownstone
29 April 2016
(The Stranger) – A King County Superior Court judge has reversed a ruling that gave the Washington State Department of Ecology the opportunity to decide when to cut statewide greenhouse gas emissions. Because of a lawsuit filed by eight Washington State kids, Judge Hollis Hill has ruled that the threat of climate change is so urgent that the state must be placed on a court-ordered deadline to hold polluters accountable now.
The decision was the first of its kind. Earlier this year, Judge Hill found that the state had a constitutional responsibility to protect its citizens—including the children who filed the lawsuit—but that dictating an additional greenhouse gas rule-making process wouldn't be necessary. After all, in July of last year Governor Jay Inslee had directed Ecology to come up with a rule to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
That changed when Ecology withdrew the draft rule in February of 2016 in order to take more time to confer with stakeholders. When that happened, the kids' lawyer, Andrea Rodgers, asked the judge to change the earlier ruling in favor of the state based on two criteria: one, that the state had misrepresented the facts, and two, that extraordinary circumstances deemed it necessary.
Judge Hill didn't think that Ecology committed fraud or misrepresentation by committing to a rulemaking process and then withdrawing a draft rule later. But she did agree with the kids' lawyer that climate change constituted extraordinary circumstances.
"Ecology doesn't dispute that current science establishes that rapidly increasing global warming causes an unprecedented risk to the earth, to the land, sea, and atmosphere, and all living plants and creatures," Judge Hill said. Then the judge used Ecology's own words to demonstrate the "extraordinary" circumstances, reading back a quote from 2014 warning of "serious economic and environmental disruptions."
Judge Hill continued:
The reason I'm doing this is because this is an urgent situation. (...) These children can't wait, the polar bears can't wait, the people of Bangladesh can't wait. I don't have jurisdiction over their needs in this matter, but I do have jurisdiction in this court, and for that reason I'm taking this action.
Now the state must come up with a rule to cut greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2016. In addition, it must make recommendations to the legislature next year to update the state's greenhouse gas reduction goals based on the most current science. [more]