The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals gave the parties 15 days to respond to the administrations petition for a writ of mandamus -- a rarely used judicial appeal that asks a higher court to overrule a lower one before the conclusion of a case.
The constitutional climate lawsuit was brought by 21 young Americans in 2015 and is supported by Our Children's Trust. Trial was supposed to have begun in federal court in Eugene, Oregon, in late October but was delayed when the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily put the trial on hold. Then, on Nov. 2, the Supreme Court declined to stop the lawsuit but told the Trump administration that the government can still petition a lower court to dismiss the case as the government had asked the high court to do.
The case was brought by 21 young people, aged 11 to 22, who argue that government officials have known for more than 50 years that carbon pollution from fossil fuels was causing climate change and that policies on oil and gas deprive them of life, liberty and property.
"Given the urgency of climate change, we hope the Ninth Circuit will recognize the importance to these young Americans of having a prompt trial date," said Philip Gregory, co-counsel for the young plaintiffs.
U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken met in Eugene with the parties Thursday and indicated she would promptly set a trial date once the appeals court lifts its temporary stay, according to Meg Ward, a spokeswoman for the plaintiffs.
The young plaintiffs also accuse the government of failing to protect natural resources as a "public trust" for future generations. The lawsuit wants a court to order the government to take action to quickly phase out carbon dioxide emissions to a certain level by 2100 and develop a national climate recovery plan.
The federal government, under both the Obama and Trump administrations, has tried repeatedly to get the case dismissed. Trump administration lawyers have argued that the lawsuit seeks to direct federal environmental and energy policies through the courts instead of through the political process.
Lawyers for the youths say evidence should be heard at trial and that the case shouldn't be dismissed before then. "We are pleased this stay is only temporary," Gregory said. "We want to commence presenting the climate science in court as soon as possible."
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