Those that have followed the historic lawsuit, Juliana v. United States – in which 21 plaintiffs who range in age from 9 to 21 years old, say that the United States government has violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by supporting greenhouse-gas emissions and fossil fuel industries – got big news on May 26.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) and the American Petroleum Institute (API), industry and trade associations, made the motions to withdraw. Whether or not they will be allowed to do so will be decided in federal court.
“With the fossil fuel industry leaving, we know we’re being taken seriously,” says Julia Olson, Executive Director, Our Children’s Trust and Co-lead Counsel, Juliana v. United States. Olson says the attempt to withdraw means the groups are “jostling to head out the back door before the fight” because they are intimidated. “This lawsuit poses what they call a ‘direct threat’ to ‘all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry,’ and they’re frightened of the scrutiny we’re bringing their way,” Olson says.
The lawsuit was originally filed against the Obama administration in 2015 and was inherited by the Trump administration. The suit says that federal policies, including the leasing of federal property for fossil fuel extraction, exacerbates climate change.
The three industry groups had intervened in the case, saying that if a judgment was made that required them to comply with tougher environmental regulations, their business would be damaged. In response, they were ordered to present the court with a joint statement detailing their position on climate science. On May 18, an attorney who spoke for the three said they couldn’t reach an agreement on how to express the effects of fossil fuel emissions on the climate.
Environmental observers say the companies may feel it easier to leave the case in the hands of a federal government that disputes climate science. NAM spokeswoman Jennifer Drogus, and National Association of Manufacturers Senior Vice President Linda Kelly, both made statements suggesting that the groups had evaluated their need to fight after the November 2016 election of President Trump.
Speaking to The Washington Post, Kelly said, “As the dynamics have changed over the last several months, we no longer feel that our participation in this case is needed to safeguard industry and our workers.”
Less than a week later, Trump pulled the United States from the Paris climate agreement.
The Juliana v. United States lawsuit originated in Eugene, Oregon in 2015.