Utah kids challenge decision to dismiss their environmental lawsuit against state

Jan 5, 2023, 4:58 PM

The the entrance to the Utah Supreme Court at the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City is pictured...

The the entrance to the Utah Supreme Court at the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City is pictured on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A group of Utah kids is not taking no for an answer as they challenge the dismissal of a lawsuit where they claim the state’s use of fossil fuels is infringing their right to life.

A notice that they are appealing the case to the Utah Supreme Court was filed on Tuesday. Six minors, who were between the ages of 9 and 17 when the lawsuit was filed in March 2022 are involved in the lawsuit through their guardians, and a then-18-year-old woman are now hoping the Supreme Court will address their case and rule that it should be allowed to continue.

Third District Judge Robert Faust ruled on Nov. 9, 2022, that the case should be dismissed, days after a hearing, and it was officially dismissed on Dec. 2.

Faust’s ruling said the children “have a valid concern” but the lawsuit’s claims cannot move forward. It said the Utah Legislature has already balanced interests and created policies, and striking down those policies would violate the separation of powers.

“The power to create and repeal environmental legislation is constitutionally committed to the political branches or the people directly in Utah,” the ruling said.

Faust also ruled that in order for the lawsuit to continue the youth would need to show that their injury is caused by the issues they are challenging and that the injuries could be addressed by the steps they request in the lawsuit. The ruling said addressing the “claimed harms would require a global solution” and, without a plan, it would be unlikely.

Another reason for the dismissal in Faust’s ruling is that courts have not previously used the “substantive due process” doctrine, which courts to protect fundamental rights, to address climate change.

The kids, however, argued this rule was incorrect. Andrew Welle, an attorney for the plaintiffs with Our Children’s Trust, said in a statement they are appealing the decision to correct an “erroneous ruling” and give the youths the opportunity to bring their constitutional claims to the court.

He said Utah is violating the youths’ constitutional right to life by reducing their lifespan by allowing and promoting fossil fuels.

“Judge Faust ruled that the fundamental right to due process under Utah’s Constitution can never apply if the harm to your life, liberty, or property involves fossil fuels,” said Welle. “Utah’s government is responsible for vast quantities of emissions that are damaging these children’s lungs, endangering their health and safety, and taking years off of their lives.”

Jeffrey Tiechert, an attorney for the state, argued in the hearing on the dismissal that the state constitution does not protect the right to a clean environment and the claims should be brought against the companies causing the pollution instead of the government.

Welle argued the state has the ability to address the harms, and said his clients are living in the state with the worst air quality in the nation.

“The state continues to actively throw fuel on the fire,” Welle said.

The lawsuit was filed against Utah, Gov. Spencer Cox, the Board of Oil Gas and Mining, the Division of Oil Gas and Mining and the Office of Energy Development.

Our Children’s Trust has been involved in similar lawsuits in the United States, Hawaii, Virginia and Montana. The Montana lawsuit is set to go to trial in June.

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

A rendering of an arts campus plaza within the "Rio Grande District." (Photo: Redevelopment Agency ...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

Salt Lake City has ‘ambitious vision’ as it seeks to turn Rio Grande around

The blocks behind the Rio Grande Depot — and the building itself — have gone through some tough times over at least the past decade; however, Salt Lake City planners say they have an "ambitious" plan to turn the site around.

1 hour ago

A photo of seized illegal drugs and paraphernalia from a traffic stop near 1500 South West Temple S...

Carlysle Price

Two arrested after SLCPD find large amounts of methamphetamine

Liberty Patrol officers arrested two people Friday morning after finding nearly 200 grams of methamphetamine in their car, according to the Salt Lake City Police Department press release.

4 hours ago

photo of a snowy peak at Snowbasin...

Nick Perry, Associated Press

Soar, slide, splash? It’s skiers’ choice as spring’s wacky pond skimming tradition returns

It's the wacky spring tradition of pond skimming, and it's happening this month at ski resorts across the country. It's often held to celebrate the last day of the skiing season before the chairlifts close until the following winter.

5 hours ago

Brittney Mulliner showing her website for her book series based on a fiction team called the Utah F...

Andrew Adams

Utah author says she was stunned by one of the trademarked Utah NHL hockey team names

A Utah County author said she was surprised when she saw one of the potential trademarked Utah NHL hockey team names.

18 hours ago

Lowell Ward in the hospital after the accident (Courtesy: Katherine Ward)...

Brianna Chavez

Cache County family thankful for driver who helped son after he was hit by car

A Cache County family is encouraging drivers to stay cautious on the roads and learn from their experience after their 13-year-old son was hit by a car.

18 hours ago


Carlysle Price

Man caught hiding in storage unit after stealing three separate vehicles

Roy resident Joshua Sotomayor was arrested in Brigham City Thursday morning after committing a series of crimes, and eventually hiding out inside of a storage unit, according to officials.

19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Utah kids challenge decision to dismiss their environmental lawsuit against state