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Lawyers representing youth in Virginia climate change lawsuit say they'll appeal

In this 2016 photo, a coal ship pulls up to the piers in Newport News, Va.
Steve Helber
In this 2016 photo, a coal ship pulls up to the piers in Newport News, Va.

A climate change lawsuit on behalf of 13 young people in Virginia was dismissed in September, but lawyers and plaintiffs say, they will appeal that decision.

The case, filed by Our Children’s Trust, claims that Virginia’s permitting of coal and gas projects is violating a constitutional right to clean air and water. Nate Bellinger is representing the plaintiffs who filed the case, who range in age from 10 to 19. “They’re growing up in this world where they are experiencing climate impacts already. I think that’s really scary to a lot of young people,” Bellinger said.

The lead plaintiff, 18-year-old Layla Hasanzadah from Fairfax County, first became involved in the case three years ago, as she saw high temperatures and changes in the weather.

“And it just seemed like all of these things were connected to something that all of us were ignoring on some level,” Hasanzadah said.

She said she sees the lawsuit as a symbol, and hopes it will inspire more people to learn about climate change, and empower them to get involved.

Similar cases on behalf of young people in other states are pending, and one in Montana is scheduled to go to trial next summer.

A circuit court judge dismissed the Virginia case, saying the government had immunity against such suits. Hasanzadah and her lawyers said they’ll appeal to the Virginia Court of Appeals.

Roxy Todd is Radio IQ's New River Valley Bureau Chief.