R.I. court dismisses lawsuit against DEM petitioning for more climate change regulations

PROVIDENCE – A Superior Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Nature’s Trust Rhode Island that sought to petition the R.I. Department of Environmental Management to take more action against climate change.

The court, in a ruling filed last week, said that it did not have jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s call to reverse a DEM response, regarding the time frame and parameters of the lawsuit, which the department argued were, “logistically unattainable and unprecedented.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several Rhode Island residents and nonprofits.

The court also determined the plaintiffs did not have standing for declaratory relief, ruling they failed to articulate a stake in the outcome of this controversy that is distinguishable from that of other members of the bar or the public. The court determined that the plaintiffs, “set forth environmental concerns of the public at large, which is insufficient to give rise to standing,” according to court documents.

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“With her decision [Superior Court] Judge [Melissa] Darigan confirmed that all three branches of Rhode Island government are failing to address the escalating climate emergency of planet Earth as is their duty under Rhode Island law. Perhaps the most vivid example of this negligence is Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas [A.] Mattiello’s statement at the beginning of this year that, ‘There is nothing that Rhode Island can do to address climate change,’ ” Nature’s Trust Rhode Island said in a statement on Monday.

“Despite the clear evidence to the contrary, Judge Darigan’s reasoning explicitly denies that the young plaintiffs have suffered injury “in fact, economic or otherwise,” the organization said. “The ruling is based on an unjust and outdated interpretation of the law.”

The decision to dismiss the case may be viewed online.