Utah Youth Sues the State for Violations of their Constitutional Rights

Sienna Yang, Pawprint Staff Reporter

Climate change and air pollution aren’t new concerns in the United States. Climate change was first reported in 1896, and in 1938 it was first connected to carbon emissions by an English engineer named Guy Callendar. For years it’s been a hot topic, heavily debated by politics and social groups.

In Utah, the effects of carbon emissions, and by extension, fossil fuels, are among the worst in the US. Increased fossil fuels mean more released carbon dioxide, increasing the heat and drying out the climate. It’s affected the natural cycles of plants and animals and caused more frequent heatwaves and forest fires, worsening medical conditions like asthma and allergies. 

According to seven youths who filed a lawsuit against state leaders, the state’s fossil-fuel-friendly policies are worsening the air quality to drastic levels, violating their constitutional rights. They quote the Declaration of Independence; the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

After applying to be a part of it over the previous summer, they’re supported by the non-profit law firm Our Children’s Trust. The non-profit has supported suits similar to this in Montana, North Carolina, Washington, Alaska, Florida, and Virginia.

The plaintiffs range from 9 to 18, from Salt Lake City and Part City.

Dallin Rima, one of the “Youth Plaintiffs” named in their lawsuit, spoke to Deseret News about the matter. “It’s frustrating because I could never vote, I could never run for office. My instruments to make change were never that great.”

When senator Mitt Romney was elected, Rima penned a letter to him, asking him to do more about the worsening climate crisis. However, the answer he received was far from satisfactory. Now, he feels that he can make a difference. 

The Youth Plaintiffs are suing the Utah government over several policies regarding the use and extraction of oil, natural gas, and fossil fuels. Specifically, their lawsuit targets the Utah Energy Act, which promotes the development of fossil fuels. 

In a statement to the Salt Lake Tribune, Andrew Welle, a staff member of Our Children’s Trust, states, “The state’s policy has placed these youth in an emergency, and every day it remains on the books brings them into future danger,” says Andrew Welle, a staff member of Our Children’s Trust.”

The complaint has been formally lodged with the Utah Court. The Youth Plaintiffs are currently waiting for a response.