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North Carolina judge rejects 13-year-old’s climate change lawsuit

A Duke Energy plant, which closed in 2013, sits on the banks of the Dan River in Eden, North Carolina in this March 2014 file photo. The plant was a coal-fired steam station, and left behind two coal ash ponds. - Noelle Swan/The Christian Science Monitor

She may have lost her case, but middle-school student Hallie Turner is not done fighting for climate-friendly policies in North Carolina.

On Wednesday, a county judge ruled against her petition for stricter emissions standards in a state reluctant to adopt more stringent limits proposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Previously, North Carolina’s Environmental Management Commission had ruled that the petition was incomplete and that state law prohibits North Carolina from creating environmental laws stricter than the federal government’s, a decision Hallie challenged with a lawsuit.

Looking ahead, the undeterred 13-year-old encouraged supporters to join her at a December 17 hearing in Raleigh as she maps a path forward alongside her pro-bono legal team.

“Climate change is too urgent for any of us to sit quietly while the state fails to take significant action,” she said, according to the News & Observer’s Anne Blythe. 

Since reading “An Inconvenient Truth” by Al Gore at age 9, Hallie has been taking action on environmental issues, from riding her bike instead of asking her parents for a ride to joining the council of her state’s iMatter Youth, a national organization for teens fighting climate change.

Last year, she submitted a petition to North Carolina’s Environmental Management Commission, proposing that the state cut emissions by 4 percent per year.

The petition, which she compiled with the help of local attorney Gayle Goldsmith Tuch and lawyers from environmental nonprofit Our Children’s Trust and Duke University, was rejected by Commissioner Benne Hutson.

Since then, the state Commission has adopted a reduction plan that falls far short of the steps recommended by the federal Environmental Protection Agency: emissions at the state’s Duke Energy power plants will be cut by 0.4 percent, versus the EPA’s goal of lowering emissions 12 percent by 2030.

Hallie and her team had filed a lawsuit against North Carolina, challenging the Commissioner’s right to reject the petition.

On Wednesday, Judge Mike Morgan ruled against the lawsuit. As he said from the bench earlier this month, however, “this court has a great amount of admiration for Hallie Turner and her maturity as a young adult to be involved in a process to try to make a difference in the world.”

In August, the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan, calling to increase emissions reductions in practically every state. But half of them, including North Carolina, have sued the EPA, claiming federal overreach. The state’s own plans will reduce emissions by roughly 2 million tons before 2030, compared to the 7 million ordered by the EPA. 

But some challenges to states’ less restrictive laws are coming from teens, often supported by Our Children’s Fund, and their generation may prove more engaged on environmental issues than supposedly eco-friendly Millennials. 

 

Continue reading this article at CSM

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