Rejecting a claim by Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council and attorneys representing two Pennsylvania school boys that people have a constitutionally guaranteed due process right to a “life-sustaining climate,” a federal Judge has dismissed a bizarre legal case challenging the Trump administration’s climate policies.
In his Fen. 19 decision, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Diamond said the plaintiffs lacked standing. And in dismissing the case, Clean Air Council v. United States, Judge Diamond granted the request by President Trump, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, and other administration officials.
The case dates to November 2017 when the two boys, aged 7 and 11 at the time, attributed their respective ailments, severe allergies and asthma, to Trump administration policies rolling back Obama-era climate initiatives. Judge Diamond showed little patience with plaintiffs willing to clog up an already overburdened court system with an issue that was best dealt with outside the judicial sphere.
“A Policy Debate Best Left to the Political Process”
“Plaintiffs’ disagreement with the defendants is a policy debate best left to the political process,” Diamond wrote. “Because I have neither the authority nor the inclination to assume control of the Executive Branch, I will grant defendants’ motion.” Diamond scoffed at what he interpreted as a request by the plaintiffs that he “supervise any action that the President and his appointees take that might touch on ‘the environment.’”
Judge Diamond was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2004.
Joseph Otis Minott, the Clean Air Council’s executive director and chief counsel, was defiant in defeat, claiming in a statement that Trump administration policies “are increasing U.S. contribution to climate change … and violating our constitutional rights.
Diamond Rebukes Judge in Controversial Oregon Ruling
As reported by Environment & Climate News (March 25), Judge Diamond did more than just dismiss Minott’s claims in the Pennsylvania case. He took the extraordinary step of rebuking U.S. District Court of Oregon Judge Ann Aiken for her ruling in Juliana v. United States, which involved 21 children suing the federal government over climate change. When Aiken ordered the lawsuit to trial in 2016, she said “the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.” As pointed out by Climate Liability News (Feb. 20), Aiken’s ruling that the young plaintiffs had a Constitutional right to a livable climate was the first such ruling by a U.S. judge.
Pointing out that Aiken’s ruling is at odds with previous court decisions, Diamond wrote that “the Julianna Court certainly contravened or ignored longstanding precedent.” He added that guaranteeing a stable climate would be “apparently without limit.”
Diamond also took issue with the notion that the judiciary has a role in climate policy and criticized Aiken’s public trust claims in Juliana, saying it was an incorrect expansion of that doctrine beyond the traditional concept governing navigable waters.
“Plaintiffs seek to create an entirely new doctrine – investing the Federal Government with an affirmative duty to protect all land and resources within the United States,” Diamond wrote. “The Julianna Court alone has recognized this new doctrine. Again, the Court’s reasoning is less than persuasive.”
“Noble Lie on Steroids”
Christopher Horner, an attorney and senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, is pleased that Judge Diamond singled out Judge Aiken’s Oregon ruling.
“The federal court in Pennsylvania threw the suit out and in the process was fairly direct in criticizing the Oregon judge’s activism in supporting the demand for a climate plan ‘without apparent limit,’” which if you know anything about the issue is the most alarming aspect – not even the most extreme treaties purport a detectable impact on climate even if you accept their fairly well-debunked assumptions,” Horner told Environment & Climate News. “Such a ruling would offer the ruling class a bottomless well of authority usurpation of liberty and suffering in the name of something it actually would not affect. It is the Noble Lie on steroids, possibly the most Noble Lie ever perpetrated.”
“Even if you accept arguendo the alarmists’ model assumptions, the U.S. disappearing would make no difference, with our sacrifice swamped by increases in the developing world,” he added. “Take into account their alarmist scenarios are proved wrong, and this is just a political prescription, not anything to do with climate. Climate is an excuse to abandon our democratic process of separation of powers, and not a very good one.”
In both the Pennsylvania and Oregon cases, children were recruited as plaintiffs to serve the agenda of climate alarmists. Seeing this for the exploitation that it clearly is, Judge Diamond took the trouble to lambaste Judge Aiken’s judicial recklessness in allowing the political ploy to serve as the basis of a far-reaching court decision.
Bonner R. Cohen, PH. D. is a senior policy analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT).