The National activist campaign to sue governments over climate change on behalf of “kids” has officially added Florida to its list of targets. It’s the latest political stunt in a series of cases brought all over the country. The lawsuits are not brought forward on legal merits — the true motivation is to generate press coverage and carry out PR stunts to turn public opinion against energy companies.
While these lawsuits name young people as the plaintiffs, the effort is really backed by deep-pocketed environmental organizations with the ultimate aim of curtailing oil and natural gas production – forcing through their political will via the courts when state legislatures do not embrace their desired policy.
The main organizer behind this litigation campaign is a national environmentalist group called Our Children’s Trust (OCT). The organization is heavily funded by the likes of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation — groups that have actively worked to undermine the energy industry throughout the nation.
The sole purpose of OCT is to bring forward these frivolous cases on behalf of children – any will do, and plaintiffs’ youth is more of an aspiration than a requirement. In essence, the organization operates as a clearinghouse for wealthy environmental foundations to sue governments, using kids as cover. According to E&E News, Founder Julia Olson started Our Children’s Trust based on “[t]he idea of having children front the campaign” against climate change and “the idea of signing up multiple children to be plaintiffs in the various lawsuits.”
The Florida complaint — filed on behalf of young residents ranging in age from 10 to 20 — claims the plaintiffs have been “seriously injured” because of the state’s “deliberate indifference to their fundamental rights” of a stable climate. They claim this violates the Florida Constitution. The complaint also alleges the state government has not adequately responded to climate change “and instead have affirmatively acted to exacerbate” the situation. The plaintiffs are asking for a court-ordered “Climate Recovery Plan” to respond to climate change.
Florida is simply the latest venue for OCT, which has proceedings in all 50 states and has shopped these specific lawsuits in eight: Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Washington. There is also a federal case pending and the U.S. government’s lawyers have asked for the suit to be halted. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Eric Grant told the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, “It is really extraordinary. Plaintiffs seek unprecedented standing to pursue unprecedented claims in pursuit of an unprecedented remedy.”
Florida Governor Rick Scott, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, pushed back against the case and its allegations in a statement to the Miami Herald through his spokesperson McKinley Lewis that read:
“The Governor signed one of the largest environmental protection budgets in Florida’s history last month – investing $4 billion into Florida’s environment. The Governor is focused on real solutions to protect our environment – not political theater or a lawsuit orchestrated by a group based in Eugene, Oregon.”
While these cases argue state-specific damages, the legal basis is exactly the same in each filing. It’s clear that the Florida OCT is just another PR stunt in the national “ban fracking” campaign.