A boutique Washington, D.C., firm is taking on the Trump administration’s climate change policy.
The Hausfeld firm, led by chairman and prominent trial lawyer Michael Hausfeld, filed a lawsuit Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against President Donald Trump, as well as the Energy Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The complaint claims the administration’s rollback of regulations and policies that were supposed to diminish the effects of climate change is based on “junk science” and constitutes “state endangerment” in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
The firm is working pro bono on behalf of the nonprofit Clean Air Council, as well as two anonymous defendant children who claim they are suffering medically as a result of impacts from climate change. One child claims they suffer from anxiety and asthma, and the other claims they have severe seasonal allergies.
“If there’s a time to act, it is the time now, before we deepen the hole which the country needs to climb out of in order to address the dangers of the effects of climate change,” Hausfeld said.
Spokespeople for both the EPA and Energy Department said their agencies do not comment on pending litigation.
The litigation takes aim at Trump’s environmental policies wholesale. The 62-page complaint alleges that despite “overwhelming scientific evidence” that climate change is dangerous to humans, the government has “embarked on a sweeping war on science” that will have devastating effects. It lists policy moves such as pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, approving the Keystone XL pipeline and the reversal of several regulations as examples.
The lawsuit alleges the rollbacks “will cause irreversible and catastrophic harm to the natural systems critical to plaintiffs’ rights to life, liberty and property,” in violation of the Fifth Amendment. It asks the court to declare that the government cannot use “junk science” to roll back policies that “increase the frequency and/or intensity” of the effects of climate change.
Hausfeld said the litigation approach is unconventional, but that’s only because few recognize the government has a responsibility not to put citizens in harm’s way.
The suit references an ongoing case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, where a judge last year declined the government’s bid to dismiss claims from a group of children who made similar claims. Hausfeld’s complaint also cites a recent decision from the Hague District Court in the Netherlands that found the Dutch government had a duty to take actions to mitigate the effects of climate change, and had to take further actions to satisfy that duty.
“The government has a responsibility and an obligation not to affirmatively endanger the life and welfare of its citizens,” Hausfeld said.