Youth Climate Intervenors Announce Legal Appeal on Line 3

Today, the Youth Climate Intervenors announced that they’re in the process of taking the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to court over the approval of the Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

The Youth Climate Intervenors -- a group of 13 young people all under the age of 25 -- made history in July 2017 when they intervened in an obscure legal process at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in order to represent the interests of their generation in the legal case around the Line 3 tar sands pipeline. Line 3, if built, would carry 760,000 barrels of heavy tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada, through northern Minnesota to Superior Wisconsin, crossing the treaty territory and sacred wild rice beds of the Anishinaabe people and causing over $287 billion dollars in harm from the climate change.

Since early 2017, the Youth Climate Intervenors have represented themselves in the legal process without a lawyer, teaching themselves the ins and outs of an obscure regulatory proceeding and contributing to more than 500 pages of substantive argument on the record, including bringing ten expert witnesses to the case -- more than any other intervening party. The experts included indigenous elders and climate scientists, which the Youth Climate Intervenors said were “the kind of wisdom expertise we believe these kinds of decisions should be based on.”

However, in June of 2018, the Public Utilities Commission approved the permits for Line 3 over the loud and explicit objections of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the Department of Natural Resources, the Pollution Control Agency, multiple Ojibwe tribes, and 94% of the public comments on the project. The judge responsible for building the legal record on the project also recommended against approving Enbridge Energy’s proposal.

Now, the Youth Intervenors are preparing to take the Public Utilities Commission to court. After representing themselves in the legal process for over a year, the group attracted the attention of the University of Minnesota Energy & Environment Legal Clinic, who will be representing the Youth Climate Intervenors moving forward.

“The Youth Climate Intervenors bring a unique and valuable perspective to the debate over the need for oil pipelines in Minnesota,” said Zachariah Sibley, a Student Director for the Clinic. “Arguing this perspective to the Public Utility Commissioners against Enbridge's seasoned attorneys was a daunting task, but their tireless efforts laid the necessary foundation for moving forward from the Commission's decision. As young Minnesotans ourselves, the Environmental and Energy Law Clinic's student attorneys are excited to put our legal training into practice and provide a voice for their perspective in halls of Minnesota's judiciary."

The Youth Climate Intervenors are part of a wave of young people taking legal action to hold elected officials accountable for action on climate change. Sophia Manolis, a 17-year-old member of the group, announced the appeal during a rally on Sunday afternoon in solidarity with the federal Julianna v. United States, or #YouthvGov lawsuit, in which 21 young plaintiffs are suing the federal government for knowingly perpetuating the climate crisis for over 50 years.

“Every day, I do as much as is mentally and physically possible for me to work towards a healthier future for my generation. I live with the very real reality ever-present in my mind that young people will face challenges due to climate change that no other generation has had to face before,” said Sophia Manolis, a 17-year old Youth Climate Intervenor who helped organize Sunday’s rally. “We must take action for justice and the future -- and the only way to do that is to stop Line 3. We've been working as hard as we can since the beginning of the process and we will continue to work even harder in court because this is what our lives depend on.”

In its order approving the Line 3 pipeline, the Public Utilities Commission also included language that denied climate science and dismissed treaty rights as irrelevant. In their recent response to the decision, the Youth Climate Intervenors wrote that the Commission’s “haphazard reasoning to justify its decision is both factually inaccurate and offensive.”

“Unlike the Commission, we didn’t have staff to write briefing papers about the case for us, so we spent hundreds of hours actually reading it ourselves -- and we know that the approval of Line 3 isn’t supported by the case record,” said Youth Climate Intervenor Akilah Sanders-Reed.

Legal appeals on the Public Utilities Commission’s decision are expected by the end of the year.

Support the Youth Climate Intervenors by signing the petition to Governor Dayton and Minnesota's next Governor, asking that they follow young people's lead and do everything in their power to #StopLine3.

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Tags: Pipeline Resistance