In an effort to force the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, a Westmoreland County teenager has filed suit. Ashley Funk, 18, of Mount Pleasant has joined a national campaign to file “atmospheric trust litigation” against states. Funk is part of a campaign organized by the environmental group, Our Children’s Trust, that has seen some success in other states. The lawsuits are based on the duty of governments to protect the “public trust,” a concept that dates back to Roman times, according to the organization’s website.
This summer the organization won a favorable ruling from a district court judge in Travis County, Texas. And in New Mexico, a state judge in Santa Fe county ruled that a similar case could move forward on its merits.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a round of climate talks in Doha, Qatar, in which countries agreed to extend the Kyoto protocols. But critics called the results “baby steps” in the face of rising Earth temperatures, which are greater than earlier predictions.
With the help of Widener University’s environmental law clinic, Funk is relying on a section of the Pennsylvania Constitution to make her case:
The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.
The Department of Environmental Protection did not return a request for comment by press time.