- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A New Mexico appeals court heard arguments earlier this month that could persuade it to overturn a ruling against a high school student’s lawsuit, which calls on the state to do a better job protecting air quality.

The New Mexico Court of Appeals listened Tuesday to the case involving then-16-year-old Akilah Sanders-Reed’s 2011 lawsuit. In her complaint, Sanders-Reed said the state is obligated to protect the public’s air quality. She also was joined in her lawsuit and appeal by Santa Fe-based environmental group WildEarth Guardians. Both said the state and Gov. Susana Martinez have failed to take responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions.

New Mexico Environment Department spokesman Jim Winchester said the attorneys handling the case for the state were unavailable for comment during the weekend.

At the time, Sanders-Reed’s lawsuit was one of many nationwide as part of an effort to hold states responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported (https://bit.ly/1LvHxTM ).

“We thought we had the moral authority to act on this, as the first generation that will really deal with the repercussions of climate change,” said Sanders-Reed, who is now 20 years old and a university student in Minnesota.

The lawsuits argued using a legal concept known as the public trust doctrine. A state district judge ruled against them in 2013, saying the state’s current regulatory process was already addressing air quality issues. The doctrine could apply if the process was somehow flawed, the judge added.

The three-judge appeals court panel will decide if the state has a duty under that doctrine. When they make a ruling has not been determined.

Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, an attorney representing Sanders-Reed and WildEarth, said they are not trying to tell the state how to regulate greenhouse gases. They just want government officials to know it is their duty.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, https://www.sfnewmexican.com


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