The Trial Lawyer Winter 2018 - Page 97

The Bad The state of California — in just the last few months — has suffered through two massive wildfires. One of them was the largest in terms of area burned and the other was the deadliest. Two record-breaking wildfires in one calendar year, both of which were made worse, possibly even made possible, by climate change. In spite of the fact that California appears to be receiving the brunt of climate change in the United States for the time being, (after a years-long drought that occurred before the wildfires) the state has once again been opened up for exploitation by corporate locusts. California had attempted to stave off the sell-off of public lands in 2017 by passing legislation that expressly forbade the federal government from turning these lands over to corporations. This was in response to the Trump administration’s plans to sell off public and federal lands to corporations so that they could extract our natural resources. But in early November, U.S. District Judge William Shubb struck down California’s self-preservation law, giving the federal government the authority to sell off whatever lands in California it deems fit. Here’s the issue: The Nestle corporation has been illegally extracting water in the San Bernardino forest for decades. Millions of gallons of water in a drought-stricken, fire-ravaged state have been pumped by Nestle every single year for decades, even though their permit had expired, and they were extracting more each year than the permit ever allowed. On top of that, logging companies have been chomping at the bit to get their hands on protected California forests so that they can clear cut areas and sell more lumber. Those practices would have been forbidden under the California law that Judge Shubb struck down, and now the federal government — an administration that has shown clear disdain for the state of California — will have the authority to auction these protected lands to the highest bidder, allowing more water extraction, more oil exploration, and more clear cutting. The state of California has suffered through some of the worst natural disasters imaginable, and now they have to suffer through some of the worst government this country has ever seen. The Ugly The lawsuit being brought against the federal government for its failure to protect American citizens from the effects of climate change has been an absolute roller coaster. Originally filed in 2015 by the group Our Children’s Trust, the plaintiffs range in age from seven to 19, and their argument is that the federal government has a responsibility to do everything in its power to protect us from the looming climate catastrophe. But the legal hurdles these young patriots and their attorneys have had to jump through has been nothing short of disgusting. After years of arguments about standing and evidence, the case was finally allowed to proceed (now against the Trump administration since the original defendants, the Obama administration, are no longer in power.) And as is so often the case, for every step forward being made, the case takes two more backwards. Just days after the US Supreme Court said that the case could proceed and that the federal government had not produced a worthy argument as to why it should be delayed further, the 9 th Circuit Court of Appeals decided to grant a stay in the case on behalf of the federal government. This is not the first time that a stay has been issued, and sadly, it doesn’t appear that it will be the last one. Reports poured in throughout the second half of 2018 warning us that we only had ten years left to take action before the worst effects of climate change become a permanent reality that we will have to learn to live with. That’s assuming action starts right now. For every year we put off action, we continue to spew more and more pollutants into our air which only brings the doomsday scenarios closer to us. These young Americans have been fighting the fight that older generations should have been fighting for more than three years now, and they still haven’t been given the opportunity to actually make their case in court. This case has been delayed long enough. And with even the conservative-majority US Supreme Court giving the case the go-ahead, the 9 th Circuit should have never issued a delay in what might be the most consequential lawsuit of this century.