August 2, 2019

Multnomah County this week filed a brief with the Oregon Supreme Court in support of the young people suing the state of Oregon over climate policy. The County joins more than 175 other business, government, academic, faith and conversation groups lending support for the climate case, including Lane County. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case at David Douglas High School in Portland on Nov. 13, 2019.

The youth plaintiffs in Chernaik v. Brown argue that the State of Oregon has the duty to protect the atmosphere from climate collapse due to the unmitigated dumping of greenhouse gases into the air.

Multnomah County and Lane County are the first jurisdictions nationally to side with youth in making this argument. On July 31, the counties submitted a ‘friend of the court merits brief’ making the case that the Court should side with youth and recognize the atmosphere as a public trust asset and confirm that the State has a duty to protect the atmosphere for future generations. 

Commissioners rallied for youth in Juliana v. U.S., as well as the Chernaik case.

Specifically, they argue that for centuries, governments have asserted their duty to protect natural resources for use by current and future generations. This duty to protect natural resources, dating back to Native American law, English Common law, and even Roman law, commonly referred to as “public trust doctrine,” has time and again been affirmed by federal and state courts. 

The youth plaintiffs in this case are growing up in a world that has already been altered by the climate crisis, with hotter drier summers and more severe storms already leading to droughts, out-of-control forest fires, flooding and landslides. The Chernaik case builds on the public trust history and asserts the urgent need for governments everywhere to take swift and decisive action to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions quickly enough to forestall the catastrophic consequences of runaway climate collapse. 

"When a child speaks on this issue, we should listen. They have the clear moral authority and are pushing for real solutions that will actually make an impact and help us recover the climate. I am with the kids,'' said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury.

“I'm pleased that the Lane County Board of Commissioners has stood up for not only the existing public trust doctrine but also for the extension of that doctrine to the atmosphere. Lane County has joined Multnomah County in offering views in support to what the Lane County climate kids are trying to accomplish,” said Lane County Chair Pete Sorenson

The briefs will be posted once they are accepted by the Court.