Young Californians allege intentional discrimination in greenhouse gas emissions in lawsuit

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Eighteen Californian children have filed a lawsuit alleging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed to protect them from the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting climate change.

The lawsuit, led by plaintiff “Genesis B.” of Long Beach, argues that insufficient EPA action on climate change has directly resulted in harms specific to children and their development. Genesis’s home is not air-conditioned, which leaves her particularly impacted by the increasingly common extreme heat in the state, the lawsuit states. For example, numerous days have been too hot for her to focus on schoolwork until the evening, her attorneys argue.

The plaintiffs allege that the EPA has known about greenhouse gas emissions’ impacts on children for years. The lawsuit also seeks to build on the precedent established by the West Virginia vs. EPA Supreme Court decision, in which the high court ruled that the agency did not have the authority to implement an Obama-era power plant rule, to argue that the EPA went outside its scope of authority by “systematically” allowing such pollution to continue.

“Children are harmed by the effects of the climate crisis in ways that are different from and worse than fully developed adults because Children’s bodies and minds are still growing, they are still dependent on adults, they have different needs and behaviors from adults, and because of their longevity of life this century and into the next one,” the lawsuit states. 

The plaintiffs are represented by the organization Our Children’s Trust, which recently represented another group of minors who successfully sued the state of Montana earlier this year over a state policy that barred factoring climate impacts into the approval process for energy projects.

“There is one federal agency explicitly tasked with keeping the air clean and controlling pollution to protect the health of every child and the welfare of a nation—the EPA,” Julia Olson, chief legal counsel for Our Children’s Trust, said in a statement. “The agency has done the opposite when it comes to climate pollution and it’s time the EPA is held accountable by our courts for violating the U.S. Constitution and misappropriating its congressionally delegated authority.”

The EPA told The Hill that it does not comment on pending litigation.

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