October 23, 2017

Juniors win case against Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection

Miller (center) and Gieger (second from right) with their peers sued the state Department of Energy and won .

By Mahika Kudlugi, Staff Writer

On May 17, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously in favor of four student plaintiffs in a case against the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Among the four plaintiffs were the high school’s Shamus Miller ’17 and Olivia Gieger ’17.

The issue brought to court was that the DEP was not fulfilling its legal obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emission levels from 1990 by 25% by the year 2020 in accordance with the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008. The court thereby ordered that the DEP enforce the set regulations on greenhouse gas emissions and decrease emissions annually.

“The lack of action by the DEP [to reduce gas emissions annually] was rather visible to the public seeing as there were no programs or initiatives designed to reduce emissions,” said Miller, who stresses the importance of minimizing the effects of global warming. “Massachusetts is one of the best states as far as environmental protection goes but the state made a promise in 2008, and they have a responsibility to stick by that. Just because we do more than other states doesn’t mean we can slow down the progress we made,” he added.

Along with Miller and Gieger, James Coakley and Isabelle Kain from Boston Latin School pursued this case to court. Supporting the plaintiffs were attorneys Dylan Sanders and Phelps T. Turner from Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C.

“So much of the credit goes to lawyers who handled the case. They worked for [over two] years to see this day so their efforts cannot be understated,” Miller said.

Greenhouse gases are gases that allow the sun’s radiation to pass through the earth’s atmosphere and warm the earth’s surface. Some of this heat is radiated back towards space, and some is trapped by greenhouse gases in what is known as the greenhouse effect. Most scientists agree that the excess of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causes global warming. Students like Miller believe in the importance of immediate action to curtail the worst of greenhouse gases’ impacts.

“Massachusetts will continue to be a global leader in the fight against climate change,” Miller said. “The ruling sets a precedent for other pending cases in courts around the country, and the world, that kids have the right to a clean and healthy planet. It is also a signal to all states that they should, and must, begin to work to counter climate change.”

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