Hallie Turner sounds tired. Oral arguments are finished in the 13-year-old Raleigh girl’s climate change case against North Carolina, and Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan is promising a ruling by Thanksgiving.
But Turner seems disappointed that she didn’t get a chance to speak during Friday’s hearing, even though the judge did acknowledge that he admired Turner for her resolve in pursuing this case.
“It’s nice to know that my voice was heard, no matter how this turns out,” she says.
Turner is hoping the judge will force North Carolina to take action on climate change. The teen called on the state’s appointed Environmental Management Commission late last year to draft a rule requiring the state to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 4 percent each year.
“Our government has a responsibility to create a healthy and sustainable environment,” says Turner. “Our leaders haven’t been living up to that.”
That petition, however, was denied by the EMC, which claimed that it did not have such power, leading Turner, with the help of the Oregon-based climate change nonprofit, Our Children’s Trust, to turn to the courts. Turner and her lawyers, which includes attorneys with Duke University’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, argue that the commission’s former chair, Benne Hutson, acted outside of his authority in denying Turner’s petition for rule-making.
Turner’s attorneys are also arguing that Hutson should have recused himself from the vote because he has a conflict of interest.
Hutson, an attorney with the McGuireWoods law firm, represents clients who oppose emissions reductions, Turner says. Hutson’s law firm bio boasts that the former EMC chair “successfully prosecuted a rulemaking petition that for the first time established a groundwater quality standard less stringent than a federal maximum contaminant level.”
Turner hears the claims that she’s just being manipulated by adults to speak on this issue, and it makes her angry, clearly.
“That’s just not true,” she shoots back. “This is important to me because it’s important to me. I’m doing this because I’m passionate about this issue.”
Indeed, climate change may be the issue of our times. As we pointed out this week, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which includes some of the world’s foremost experts on climate change, released a scathing report last year concluding that they are “95 percent certain” humans are responsible for climate change.
“I don’t want to tell my grandchildren that I didn’t at least try,” Turner says.