Youth climate-change lawsuit targets Alaska LNG project

(Reuters)Eight young Alaska residents sued the state on Wednesday seeking to block a major natural gas project, the latest in a string of climate-change related lawsuits by youths arguing that government policies promoting fossil fuels violate their rights.

The Anchorage state court lawsuit, brought by a group of plaintiffs ranging in age from 11 to 22, alleges that an Alaska law mandating the project's development infringes on their due process rights and other constitutional protections by causing the release of greenhouse gases that harm their health and livelihood.

Several other youth climate-change lawsuits have recently been dismissed, including two lawsuits against the federal government and two previous cases in Alaska. A similar case involving young Hawaiian plaintiffs is expected to head to trial next month, and the plaintiffs have amended one of the dismissed federal cases as well.

The Alaska Supreme Court said in the most recent case before it, which was dismissed in 2022, that courts cannot mandate broad policy changes.

The latest lawsuit is narrower than the earlier Alaska cases, which challenged broad state policies that support fossil fuels. By focusing on a specific project, the plaintiffs said the newest suit complies with the earlier court decisions.

"Alaska's youth are on the front lines of the climate crisis, and their futures depend on a swift transition away from fossil fuels," Andrew Welle, an attorney at the non-profit law firm Our Children's Trust, which represents the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor called the lawsuit "misguided" in an email, and said liquefied natural gas development in the state "is subject to the most stringent environmental standards in the world." Taylor said he is confident the courts will uphold the law.

The corporation's Alaska LNG project includes an over 800-mi pipeline that will bisect the state, carrying up to 3.3 Bft3d of gas from the state's petroleum rich North Slope to Alaska communities and an export terminal south of Juneau. The development agency has said the roughly $39-B project is expected to be operational by 2030.

The young plaintiffs said in the lawsuit that climate change is already causing them breathing problems due to wildfire smoke and is diminishing their ability to hunt and fish for subsistence, among other alleged harms. They said the Alaska LNG project will make climate change worse.

The lawsuit asks the court to block the Alaska LNG project from proceeding, and to declare that a law mandating its development is unconstitutional. They also asked the court for a declaration that the Alaska constitution includes a right to a life-sustaining climate system.

(Editing by Philippa Fletcher and Diane Craft)


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