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Meet the people suing the federal government in Eugene’s historic climate change lawsuit



Last week a landmark climate case kicked off at the Federal Courthouse here in Eugene. For those that missed it, read about it here.

Now, meet the people who are actually bringing this law suit into being. While the twenty-one young plaintiffs in the federal climate case Juliana et al v United States are technically their own individual parties, this lawsuit is being supported by a larger group called Our Children’s Trust.

OCT is a group that funds legal actions for people and organizations all over the world. They have supported legal actions in all 50 states, including the similar 2012 climate case that was thrown out in the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court. They are also preparing to pursue cases in Pakistan this week and later in India.

Julia Olson, the executive director and the chief legal counsel of OCT, used to represent another group called Earth Justice. She decided to get involved with OCT when she had children and began to worry about what the future would look like for them.

“I realized that all my previous work would be for naught if I didn’t help to get involved with climate change,” said Olson.

Olson believes this federal case is the biggest civil rights case in the world right now and that the stakes for whether or not it will be dismissed are high.

“Our government has known that burning fossil fuels would make our planet unlivable,” Olson said, “and they continued to make it our primary energy source.”

Phillip Gregory is the other half of the lead counsel for this case and has a more than 35-year history practicing law. He is also the father of a recent UO graduate.

Gregory said that his decision to get involved with environmental law stems from a philosophy he has always tried to live by and impart on his own children.

“I would always tell my sons when we were camping to leave the campground in better shape than we found it,” Gregory said, “and like with Civil Rights cases of the last century, these law suits are the only way we have of leaving our planet in better shape than we found it.”

Olson said that some of the plaintiffs have been working with OCT for up to five years, and are in this for the long haul.

“We are going to push this as far as it will go, even if the case is dismissed in Oregon,” said Olson. “The plaintiffs are prepared to take this to the Supreme Court.”


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Troy Shinn

Troy Shinn

Politics News Reporter for the Oregon Daily Emerald. UO Senior studying Journalism and Film.