By Ahmed Namatalla / Associated Press
SEATTLE — Environmental activists are suing Washington state, the latest state-level effort to boost use of renewable energy.
Thirteen children backed by the non-profit Our Children’s Trust filed a lawsuit on Friday in King County Superior Court to force the state to end its reliance on fossil fuels. The only way to do so would be for the state to move toward producing all of its energy through renewable means by 2050, Andrea Rodgers, one of the lawyers that filed the case, said in an interview.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a similar case filed in Alaska in October. In June, President Donald Trump announced the U.S. was withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, a pact that aimed to slow the rise in global temperature by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Similar legal action taken by OTC-backed minors in Massachusetts succeeded in 2016, but failed in Pennsylvania a year later. Lawmakers in Washington’s Democratic-controlled Senate are debating the imposition of a gradually-increasing tax on carbon emissions, although critics charge it doesn’t do enough to combat climate change.
Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has made fighting climate change a central tenant among his policies, signing an order a year ago that requires producers of greenhouse gasses to limit emissions and incentivizes investment in renewable energy. That order is being challenged in court.
“We appreciate the governor’s work; but while words are important, they’re not everything,” Rodgers said. “The emissions in Washington are still substantial. We still have transportation and energy systems that are dependent on fossil fuels. We need a complete transformation.”
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are children that range in age from 7 to 17.
It seeks to make the state establish a plan to “stabilize the climate system and protect the vital natural resources on which plaintiffs and future generations will depend.” It also charges that an existing law that obligates the state to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 to 1990 levels, and by 2050 to 50 percent below 1990 levels or 70 percent below the state’s projected emissions that year, still permits “dangerous” levels of those gasses.
Tara Lee, a spokeswoman for the governor, said that while the office doesn’t usually comment on pending litigation, Inslee “has made climate change and clean energy a high priority throughout his life and his career in public service.” She pointed to legislation requested by the governor such as the carbon tax that’s being discussed by lawmakers.
Inslee had proposed that companies be taxed at a rate of $20 per metric ton of carbon emissions. Lawmakers are discussing a levy that would start at $12 per metric ton in 2019 and increase at $1.80 annually from 2021 to be capped at $30.