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Oregon Public Trust Litigation

Changing EnvironmentThis month saw the latest chapter in a lengthy case about climate change and Oregon’s response to it.  The case, Cherniak v. State of Oregon, began in 2011, when two Eugene area teens challenged the state’s response to climate change, arguing that the atmosphere was part of the public trust and that the state had failed in its obligation to protect that resource for future generations.

The case was initially dismissed by the Lane County Circuit Court in 2012 for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.  In 2014, the Oregon Court of Appeals remanded the case, finding that the court did have authority to consider the matter.  On Tuesday, April 7, 2015, the state of Oregon found itself back in the Lane County Circuit Court arguing that the atmosphere is not subject to the public trust doctrine.  The other critical issue involves the remedy if the atmosphere is found to be subject to the public trust doctrine.  Essentially, what authority does a state circuit court have to dictate state policy and determine the appropriate level of emissions?

The court indicated it would likely rule on the matter within two months, but that is unlikely to be the end of the matter.  Stay tuned for future developments on climate change in Oregon.

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