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Lighting a Legal Fuse


Lighting a Legal Fuse

Emily Schwartz Greco

Climate action is finally gaining ground in Washington. No, not that Washington.

Following their victory in a Seattle court, eight children are pressing Washington State’s Department of Ecology to crack down on carbon pollution. The agency has until August 7 to reach an agreement with the youths, who sued after the department rejected their petition. Otherwise, the kids will go back to court.

“I hope our voices are heard,” said Aji Piper, a 14-year-old and one of the plaintiffs.


“Out of the mouths of babes…”


Big energy faces a difficult time. The precedent of tobacco and the various companies pushing that product comes to mind.


Judges cannot write laws nor can they order a legislature to write a law. These kids can demand that laws be passed but no such demand is binding on any legislature. Perhaps judges in other countries can order reduction of greenhouse gas emissions but no U.S. judge has such power in the absence of legislation. Why are they smiling in this photo? They haven’t won anything but the right to make demands and they had that right before going to court. Are there any trial lawyers reading this comment who disagree with my thoughts? I hope I am wrong and I hope this so-called court victory is not meaningless.


I liked you but there are so many laws on the books that are not being enforced. A judge can demand that the laws be followed. I am not sure about this suit. The republicans don’t want to enforce laws they don’t like.


Out of the mouths of babes…

… and their lawyers!


i think the point is that they are establishing legal liability. They are demonstrating that the corporations, and the governments, knew that they were causing injury. So they can be sued for damages.

So they are imposing vast - essentially endless in this case - risk of future costs imposed through lawsuits. Like the multi-billion dollar settlements that the tobacco companies are paying.

i also await any further clarification by people with more legal expertise.


Let’s not lose sight of the effective force of bad publicity.

It will cost the State of Washington more money to put off those plaintiffs in any manner, in terms of bad publicity, than it will cost them to see that judicial gift for the blessing it delivers.

Of course, there are fools in every state’s ruling claque. But sometimes cooler heads see what the fools miss.

We cannot afford to continue being foolish about climate change.

Nor can we afford to be cynical with every gift that comes along.


The Department of Ecology for Washington State has a legal mandate that it must follow as intended upon its creation. The dept. of Sanitation collects garbage for example. while the dept of water ensures potable drinking water etc.

The Department of Ecology has a legal purpose and is given a mandate by the state legislature. It is there that the lawsuit focuses. They are smiling because a judge allowed their suit to be heard which then forces the department of ecology to explain/justify/or excuse as the case may be… just what they do to fulfill the mandate as set out by the legislature.


Let’s be grownups and place the responsibility where it belongs. Private ownership of motor vehicles defines the middle class. Political careers are destroyed by failing to ensure abundant supplies of affordable fuel. Now, we’ve known at least since the Arab Oil Embargo of the 1970s that America has “an urgent need” to break free of our addiction to oil. Every step of the way, middle class tax payers have fought every effort to invest taxpayer dollars into the necessary research and development. Further, they have fought every effort to invest tax dollars into building a modern, Euro-level mass transportation system.We’re stuck. More so than at any time since the 1950s, America is locked into a culture of middle class elitism (and appeasement).

The leading cause of both catastrophic climate change AND our serial wars is our addiction to oil. The most carcinogenic type of smoke is the kind created by burning fossil fuels – not plant leaves. Few smoke, most drive. Every day, highways are lined with miles of cars spewing massive amounts of carcinogenic soot and oil particles into the Earth’s atmosphere. The liberal response has continued to be one of pontificating about “big tobacco” while overlooking the fact that it is Big Oil that has kept the US engaged in serial wars while destroying the health of humans and the planet.