Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Foster v. Washington Department of Ecology

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20223
Nos. 14-2-25295-1, (Wash. Super. Ct., 11/19/2015)

A Washington court held that the public trust doctrine applies to the protection of the atmosphere, including limits on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but denied minors' petitions for stricter GHG regulations because the state agency has already commenced rulemaking. The court held that the state has "a constitutional obligation to protect the public's interest in natural resources held in trust for the common benefit of the people of the state." The state argued the public trust doctrine, which has been applied to navigable waters, cannot apply to the atmosphere. But navigable waters and the atmosphere are intertwined. To argue that the two are separate or that GHG emissions do not affect navigable waters is "nonsensical." The state agency, however, has already begun rulemaking to establish GHG emission standards taking into account science as well as economic, social, and political considerations. The agency, therefore, cannot be found to be acting arbitrarily or capriciously, and the court denied the petitions.