Kids ask judge to hold Dept. of Ecology in contempt

Alison Morrow reports

A group of young people returned to King County Superior Court Tuesday to hold the Washington Department of Ecology (ECY) in contempt of court over clean air regulations.

Recently, ECY released a new Clean Air Rule under the direction of Gov. Jay Inslee, but the kids don't believe the Clean Air Rule stringent enough. They want additional regulation, saying ECY's current rule is based on "outdated science.”

"We are not here to appeal the legality of the clean air rule," said attorney Andrea Rodgers.

Last year, the group of mostly middle school students argued that their rights to life are threatened by climate change, and a King County judge agreed with them.

"It's kind of boring, and I'd rather not be doing this, but I wish they'd be doing their job properly and be Department of Ecology and not Department of Business Interests," student Laura Fain said.

The Clean Air Rule requires businesses responsible for 100,000 metric tons of carbon pollution annually to cap their emissions and gradually decrease them. Several utilities, including Puget Sound Energy, are suing over it.

The plaintiffs argue that ECY is not regulating air quality in a way that the kids can grow to adulthood safely.

"These young people's rights continue to be violated," Rodgers said.

Referring to "best available science,” Rodgers told the court, "The state is not on track to meet greenhouse gas reductions."

Rodgers called the Public Trust Doctrine the "heart and soul of this case." The youth petitioners believe ECY is defaulting on its legislative responsibility to protect the natural resources entrusted to it.

"What's at stake for me is my future. Global warming is happening, and it's happening fast, and if we don't act to stop it, it's going to be way too late for my generation," Gabriel Mandel said.

ECY's attorney argued that the department's Clean Air Rule serves as a fulfillment of its responsibility to protect Washington's natural resources.

Judge Hollis Hill told the court she still has several documents to read before the makes a final ruling. She mentioned ECY's prior acknowledgment that current statutes are not stringent enough to curb global warming. 

Copyright 2016 KING


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