Description: Action seeking declaration that State of Alaska had obligation to protect atmosphere as public trust and regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
Kanuk v. Alaska
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 10/28/2014 Order Petition for rehearing denied. 09/12/2014 Opinion Download Opinion issued affirming dismissal. The Supreme Court of Alaska affirmed the dismissal of an action brought by six children under the Alaska constitution and the public trust doctrine against the State of Alaska seeking to impose obligations on the State to address climate change. As initial matters, the court concluded that plaintiffs had interest-injury standing to make these claims and that sovereign immunity did not shield the State. The court ruled, however, that three of plaintiffs’ claims for relief that asked the court to set carbon dioxide emissions standards and order the state to take actions to meet the standards were nonjusticiable political questions because they required “a science- and policy-based inquiry” better left to the executive or legislative branches of government. While four other claims sought justiciable relief—namely a declaratory judgment interpreting the state constitution to impose a duty on the State to protect the atmosphere—these claims did not present an actual controversy. The court indicated that a declaration of the scope of the public trust doctrine would neither compel the State to take any particular action nor advance the plaintiffs’ interests. The court therefore dismissed these claims on “prudential grounds.”
Kanuk v. Alaska