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Monday, March 4, 2019

Youth plaintiffs in RI climate change suit demand documents

They want to see the background behind DEM's decision to deny their petition
Peter Nightingale,

Image result for ri youth climate petitionNature's Trust Rhode Island announced that it has taken further action to compel the State of Rhode Island to publish, for public comment action, proposed regulations to directly control the emission of greenhouse gases.  

Specifically, Nature's Trust Rhode Island has filed a request for documents. These must be produced by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to make clear what the basis was for its denial in October of the petition filed with the department in September. 

In addition, the organization filed two documents with questions to be answered by DEM. This process, known as discovery, is a key step in most civil litigation. It is designed to narrow down, where possible, the differences between the parties. The requests require responses in either 30 or 40 days, consistent with the rules for such litigation.

Catherine Scott, one of the litigants and a former student at the University of Rhode Island, remarked: "While many may feel Rhode Island is one of the leading states in the fight against climate change, the unfortunate reality is that the state's efforts are still not enough. We are calling on the DEM and state legislators to take seriously our proposals for more aggressive action, based on the best available science, to reduce emissions and protect the lives of Rhode Islanders."

Alex Duryea, a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island and a board member of Nature's Trust Rhode island, added: "DEM needs to protect future generations from the catastrophic impacts of climate change. Future generations deserve at the very least the same quality and quantity of resources as exist today, if not better. Extreme measures must be taken now. We are running out of time."
Nature's Trust Rhode Island initiated this litigation on behalf of youth and young adults who concluded that the impending climate catastrophe puts their future well-being at stake. The plaintiffs realize that the existing guidance to limit green house gas emissions, increasingly including methane (natural gas), is inadequate to protect their health. 

As Meghan Janicki, a sophomore at West Warwick High School, observes: "The planet has brought us to live this life while we are tearing it down.  It is time to start bettering the home of human life.  There should be no opposition to ensuring that our planet is a suitable home to future generations."

Since the litigation was filed, scientific evidence has grown showing that climate developments are outpacing projections, while climate scientists have urged humanity to take action on an unprecedented scale. This prompted Sister Mary Pendergast of Mercy Ecology, Pawtucket, RI, to say that, "unprecedented times call for unprecedented action by our state leadership!"

Indeed, as Chloe Moers, a student at the Met High School in Providence and a board member of Nature's Trust RI, observed: "Lives are being lost and ecosystems killed. Towns are flooding. Animals and people are dying. This is a problem that cannot be ignored any longer. This is not about us or them, or about saving money; this is about saving our lives and our future."

Nature's Trust Rhode Island is aware that the shortcomings of the existing protections are under scrutiny by the Rhode Island General Assembly, as well as by the US Congress. This battle has been fought for over 20 years. 

This year, the Global Warming Solutions Act for Rhode Island, carbon tax and dividend proposals at the state and federal level have been introduced. Most far-reaching is the federal Green New Deal resolution. All of this legislation addresses that same general concern about the inadequacy and lack of enforceability of existing guidelines.

Nature's Trust Rhode Island supports consideration of all such proposals, but notes that the current drafts may fall short of the requirements of the best available science, the precautionary principle, and environmental justice. Nature's Trust Rhode Island will continue to pursue litigation to address these grave risks.

For more information about the litigation, see: