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Young Advocates Behind Lawsuit Want Florida Lawmakers To Focus On Renewable Energy

Lynne Sladky
AP Photo

A group of Florida teens say the state has violated their constitutional rights by not doing enough to combat climate change. They’ve sued the state because of it. A hearing was scheduled for Wednesday but was canceled after the defendants agreed new documents could be added in the case. Still, the teens met in Tallahassee to present their case to the public.

“We’re basically saying that the state of Florida government and the governor and the commissioner of agriculture and their cabinet has the legal duty it’s outlined in the Florida Constitution in something called the public trust doctrine to protect our atmosphere," says Delaney Reynolds, one of the young plaintiffs.

Delaney wanted to file the lawsuit after seeing how her hometown has changed in the 20 years she's been alive.

“I live in Miami-Dade County, and the county just above us is Broward County, and the county right below us is the Florida Keys, Monroe County. And when we experience the king tides or the super moon tides you can’t go to a single city within every three of those counties and not find a flooding. There are streets that will be flooded every single street in those counties," explained Reynolds.

The lawsuit was filed when Reynolds was 18. The youngest plaintiff in the case is 12. During last year’s king tide event part of Key Largo in Monroe County was underwater for 82 days. Last month Monroe County released a report showing far worse news for the future.

Just last month the Florida Keys announced it isn't going to be able to save everyone’s homes from flooding due to the immediacy of the threat.

The state has pushed for the lawsuit to be dismissed. State attorney's don't believe it should be considered by the courts.

“They’re arguing things like climate change is a political question that only the legislative branch, not the judicial branch should address," says the plaintiff's lawyer, Andrea Rogers.

She says the teens aren’t asking for the judicial branch to directly address climate change but to urge the legislature to focus on renewable energy.

“We’re asking the courts to order the defendants to come up with a plan that will then put their energy system into compliance with their constitutional obligations."

Reynolds says in an ideal world, they would win the lawsuit and Florida would work on generating energy without causing harm to the environment.