Renewable energy advocates lost an attempt to strike down a program in Maine that reduces the amount of subsidies given to solar panel owners, the latest move in an ongoing battle between the solar lobby and state regulators.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday handed the Conservation Law Foundation, the Natural Resources Council of Maine and other solar proponents a loss when it dismissed their attempt to throw out certain provisions in the state’s new net metering system.
Renewable energy advocates have fought against Maine’s new system that gradually reduces the credit panel owners are given for the power they produce at home, decreasing the incentive for homeowners to purchase solar panels.
Most state governments have established some form of net metering — a system where homeowners are credited for the power their solar panels produce and send back to the grid. Solar companies are very supportive of the policy, as it creates an incentive for people to purchase expensive panel installation, promising them savings on electricity bills in the long run.
However, net metering has also been controversial as it essentially shifts costs onto non-panel owners.
Utilities typically must credit panel owners for their power, not at the wholesale rate, but at the more expensive retail rate. These costs are covered by way of more expensive energy bills for all ratepayers. A number of states have begun roll back their solar subsidies, with Maine included.
Outgoing Republican Gov. Pau LePage has argued that these subsidies have become less necessary as the costs for solar installation continues to drop. The Maine Public Utilities Commission established a new net metering policy earlier this year that gradually reduces the amount of credit panel owners are given.
However, homeowners who had already purchased panels were grandfathered in to the old system for another 15 years.
Renewable energy advocates have fought against the rule change in the state legislature, where LePage has already vetoed three different bills that would have reformed his new net metering policy.
Unable to regain their subsidies at the legislative level, the solar lobby has turned to the courts.
The Conservation Law Foundation complained to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court last year, challenging a provision that asses a transmission charge on panel owners for the electricity they generate and use at their house. This challenge, however, was ultimately thrown out after the court ruled that such an issue needs to be settled at a lower court.
“We obviously are disappointed,” Sean Mahoney, leader of the Conservation Law Foundation in Maine, said to the Portland Press Herald. “The decision doesn’t address the underlying problems with the [Public Utilities Commission] rule.”
The Conservation Law Foundation has vowed to continue fighting.
“[W]e could see ourselves back at the Law Court in a year with the same issue,” Mahoney explained. “And in that time, people will have both potentially paid significant dollars to install these second meters and/or begun to lose the benefits of the net energy billing process.”
Group that used children as litigious climate pawns gets shot down by judge
Washington judge throws out children’s climate change lawsuit
A judge in Washington state on Tuesday dismissed a climate change lawsuit filed against the state by a group of child activists.
King County Superior Court Judge Michael Scott ruled in favor of the State of Washington’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Aji P. v. State of Washington. The 13 young activists in the suit argue that the state is violating their constitutional rights through actions that cause climate change.
Judge Scott ruled that issues brought up in the case are political questions that cannot be resolved by a court, and must be addressed by Congress and the president.
Attorneys representing the children said they would make a formal statement on the judge’s decision on Wednesday morning. An initial statement by Our Children’s Trust, the group representing the children, suggested Judge Scott erred in his decision.
“Given the significance of the Court’s decision and the pronounced departures from proper judicial procedure and consideration of Plaintiffs’ claims, Our Children’s Trust will issue a formal statement regarding the decision tomorrow,” the initial statement read.
The child plaintiffs in the lawsuit said they were both “saddened” and heartbroken” by the judge’s decision.
Full story at the Washington Examiner
This follows the other big dismissal that overzealous climate change activists recently had in California court. That’s going to set a legal precedent.
Washington Court Places Washington’s Fossil Fuel Use Above the Constitutional Rights of Youth: Formal Statement to Follow
Seattle, Washington — Today, King County Superior Court Judge Michael Scott granted the State of Washington’s motion to dismiss Aji P. v. State of Washington, the constitutional climate lawsuit brought by 13 young plaintiffs. Given the significance of the Court’s decision and the pronounced departures from proper judicial procedure and consideration of Plaintiffs’ claims, Our Children’s Trust will issue a formal statement regarding the decision tomorrow. The immediate reactions of the Plaintiffs and their attorneys are set forth below.
Kailani, 13-year-old plaintiff from Spokane said:
“I am deeply saddened by the Court’s decision. My rights as a Native American person are being taken away because of climate change. Camas, huckleberries, salmon, and other traditional foods are disappearing and this is because of climate change that the government continues to contribute to. How long are people going to ignore that climate change is a real threat to my life and my culture? It’s very disappointing. The government is not taking the kind of action necessary to protect my rights. This is a fight that we will continue to fight. It’s not going to be easy, but this needs to change.”
Wren, 17-year-old plaintiff from Seattle said:
“As youth on this planet, we are absolutely heartbroken to hear that the judge in this ruling has decided to dismiss our case. In his ruling Judge Michael R. Scott decided that we do not have individual fundamental rights to a clean environment because this right is simply a “desirable objective” even though the legislature has already said we have this right. As plaintiffs on this case we believe that the ability to grow up and raise healthy families of our own on this planet is not simply desirable, but rather crucial to the prosperity of humanity on Earth. This summer alone, increasingly dangerous wildfires throughout the United States have destroyed communities and families, polluted and clouded our air, and taken human lives. I haven’t been able to leave the house without my inhaler this week because wildfire smoke has settled in Seattle. This is not the environment I believe any American deserves. What American youth deserve is to have their futures protected in our courts of law.”
James, 17-year-old plaintiff from Taholah said:
“It’s hard to capture the magnitude of the effects of Judge Scott’s decision. Our winters get more and more extreme. Our summers are drier. I miss our clean, crisp and pristine air on days like today when our clouds have a red overlay from wildfire smoke. We had another season without blueback sockeye salmon and our spring chinook is looking grim. This are only going to continue to get worse.”
Kylie, 13-year-old plaintiff from Taholah said:
“I am extremely disappointed with the Court’s decision. We have limited time to turn climate change around and every delay means more harm to me, my family, and my culture. We cannot continue down this path. I am hopeful that the appellate courts will do the right thing and allow this case to go to trial so that our voices can be heard.”
Andrea Rodgers, counsel for plaintiffs and senior staff attorney at Our Children’s Trust said:
“On a day when the sun in Seattle is shrouded in smoke from wildfires, the youth plaintiffs are devastated that Judge Scott declined to give them an opportunity to present their constitutional claims in a court of law. By deferring to the Executive and Legislative branches of government that have affirmatively placed these plaintiffs in harm’s way, without an appropriate legal analysis, the court has unfortunately chosen not to engage to protect the rights of these plaintiffs, to their detriment. The youth intend to continue to pursue the vindication of their constitutional rights before higher courts of law, as they have no other option.”
Andrew Welle, co-counsel for plaintiffs and staff attorney at Our Children’s Trust said:
“Plaintiffs intend to continue the pursuit of their urgent constitutional claims by appealing Judge Scott’s decision to Washington’s appellate courts. The United States Supreme Court recently ruled that similar claims against the federal government must advance to the trial stage, affirming that the judiciary has a duty to resolve constitutional claims of this nature. Given the urgency of climate change and the important constitutional issues involved, the political branches of government cannot be immune from liability for the constitutional climate crisis of their own making.”
The youth filed the case because the state of Washington is violating their constitutional rights by perpetuating an energy and transportation system that is dependent upon fossil fuels. The case follows up on historic victories secured by young people in the case of Foster v. Ecology, which ultimately led to the adoption of Washington’s Clean Air Rule. In spite of the Foster court’s 2015 recognition that “the scientific evidence is clear that the current rates of reduction mandated by Washington law cannot achieve GHG reductions necessary to protect our environment and to ensure the survival of an environment in which [Youth] can grow to adulthood safely,” the State of Washington continues to pursue policies that cause dangerous levels of GHG emissions and harm the rights of young people.
The young plaintiffs, who range in age from 8 to 18, are supported by Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit that supports legal actions across the world, including the landmark lawsuit against the United States, Juliana v. United States, that seek science-based action by governments to secure a safe climate and healthy atmosphere for all present and future generations.
Our Children’s Trust is a nonprofit organization, leading a coordinated global human rights and environmental justice campaign to implement enforceable science-based Climate Recovery Plans that will return atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to below 350 ppm by the year 2100. We elevate the voice of youth, those with most to lose in the climate crisis, to secure the legal right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate on behalf of all present and future generations. www.ourchildrenstrust.org/