Energy. Environment. Economy.

Pa. Teen Files Climate Change Lawsuit Against State

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.


  • hmontaigne

    I love the younger generation. They call bullsh*t on all the things many of their elders have equivocated to, or denied.

  • Jack Wolf

    I noticed several years ago that most climate change reports and scientific papers use a less than realistic emission scenarios in their calculations. Since these emissions are long lived, this has led to a deepening concern about the climate situation and it’s impacts today, in my lifetime, now.

    This important talk by Dr. Anderson at this year’s Cabot Lecture clearly points the finger at scientists for not accurately reporting how bad the climate situation is. He also explains why we cannot meet the 2 degree C (3.8 F) target set by the world’s government and its impacts on us today. His talk is timely in light of this week’s paper from the World Bank that found:

    “Even with the current mitigation pledges fully implemented, there is roughly a 20% likelihood of exceeding 4°C by 2100. If they are not met, warming of 4°C could occur as early as the 2060s.”

    Globally, we are nowhere close to meeting our mitigation pledges and long lived CO2 emissions continue to accumulate in the atmosphere at an accelerating rate. It’s like civilization has collectively said: Fuch it. Dr. Anderson is very animated and I think you will find it enlightening.

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