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Raleigh teen challenges state inaction on climate change

Posted November 13, 2015

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— An eighth-grader at Ligon Middle School in Raleigh isn't old enough to vote but is taking on the state of North Carolina.

Hallie Turner, 13, was in a Wake County courtroom instead of a classroom on Friday morning, hoping that a state judge would force the Environmental Management Commission to accept a petition she presented last year seeking to cut carbon dioxide emissions in North Carolina by 4 percent a year and an annual report on the state's efforts to meet that goal.

The commission rejected her petition, saying it was incomplete.

"Ms. Turner seeks the adoption of a rule that will ensure the integrity of North Carolina's climate," attorney Gayle Tuch said. "The harmful effects of climate change are already being felt here."

Turner is part of a nationwide youth movement taking on climate change. The Oregon-based nonprofit Our Children's Trust has been leading efforts to file lawsuits or administrative petitions in every state and against the federal government.

"This is an issue, it's not only affecting me, it's affecting future generations," Turner said. "I feel like my voice needs to be heard."

North Carolina was among dozens of states that last month challenged President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental regulators say North Carolina should be allowed to create its own plan to address pollution instead of having a federal plan forced on it.

For the first time in almost two decades, North Carolina's air quality meets all federal clean air standards, and the state has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 25 percent since 2005 without federal intervention, Secretary of Environmental Quality Donald van der Vaart has said.

Turner said she's been passionate about climate change for years following a conversation at the family dinner table.

"I feel like my voice needs to be heard. I haven’t really ever let my age get in the way of it," she said. "There are definitely people who are like, 'You’re a kid. What do you know?' and that was always the frustrating thing for me since the beginning.was how people didn’t take me seriously."

Although she has legal support for her case, she said she understands what she's fighting for.

"I know our government has a responsibility to provide a safe, healthy and sustainable environment, and our leaders aren’t living up to their responsibilities," she said.

Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan said he plans to issue a ruling in the next two weeks, but he's already impressed by Turner.

"The court has a great amount of admiration for Hallie Turner and her maturity as a young adult, to be involved in a process to try and make a difference in the world," Morgan said, adding that his comments don't reflect any stance he is taking on the merits of her case.

31 Comments

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  • David Herman Nov 14, 2015
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    You are a car salesman's dream customer.

  • David Herman Nov 14, 2015
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    Please focus, the excess nitrates are a result of fertlizer and animal waste runoff and have nothing at all to do with climate. This is a conversation about climate, not nitrate runoff. Name one recently endangered animal in NC? There is more wildlife here than in the last 100 years. You must be a city dweller to think otherwise. There are Turkey in every county in NC. 30 years ago there were in less than 15 out of 100. In that same period, coyote and black bear territories have quadrupled. Deer populations are at there highest since records have been taken. There are now many sustainable bald eagle populations from the mountains to the coast. Elk are now thriving in the mountains. None of this has anything to do with climate. You haven't said one thing that is remotely connected to reality. I truly believe you believe what you are saying, which makes it all the more troubling. God help you!

  • Timothy Watson Nov 14, 2015
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    And where do these excessive nitrates come from? why do more people have allergies problems now vs 15-20 years ago? Where do these environmental issues come from? Climate change and man`s impact on the environment is the correct answer. If you can`t understand that all these concerns and problems are a result of climate change then you are really are uniformed and being mislead. Excessive nitrates is a direct result of man. You bought up nitrates, but it seems like you just don't want to admit it is a result of what man has done and is doing. We have Endangered animals because we are taking away their natural habitant by cutting down trees, thus the populations of these animals is slowly decreasing. Yeah, keep smoking that coal and oil, it will make sense soon.

  • David Herman Nov 14, 2015
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    People no longer debate whether or not the earth is round because its clearly obvious that it is. People debate climate change because its not clearly obvious that the climate is changing. It's really that simple. It's not a conspiracy on conservatives part. Who wouldn't be at least a little bit worried if it was? But when you have folks like Al Gore making the case for you then you must understand that it's reasonable for us to be skeptical right? When you call people names who agree with vetted research that disputes your vetted research, it makes us skeptical of your intentions. It makes you look like a bully and makes us leery of you and your beliefs. It's really that simple.

  • David Herman Nov 14, 2015
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    Stay focused now, give me an example of climate change here in NC. Just one will do. Not something you are blaming on the climate but actual climate change. Snowing more? Less? Hotter? Colder? Raining more? Less? Nothings changed. There's always extremes. We've been keeping records for about 100 years now at best. With 365 days you can expect that several days each year will be extreme in the context of 100 years. We will probably have three record highs and 3 record lows. In fact that tends to be about average to what actually occurs. Trust your own observations. What towns were forced out by rising sea levels?

  • David Herman Nov 14, 2015
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    What endangered animals? Excess nitrates in water is what has caused an increase(if any) in algae blooms. Increased allergies can't have anything to do with climate since the climate hasn't changed. I will compliment you on your attempt though as you actually tried to debate instead of merely being as facist(the Democrat way). Fracking has nothing to do with climate by the way.

  • Will Sonnett Nov 14, 2015
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    So typical of the left to assert that those who disagree with their politics are less intelligent, and yes, climate change is more of a political issue than science.

  • Timothy Watson Nov 14, 2015
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    Ok, you want personal accounts of climate change in this state, think about the fish kills or algae blooms that have happened in the last few years, think about all the allergy problems people are having now vs 15-20 years ago. Think about the contaminated water, when we are told to boil out water before drinking it. Think about the endangered animals list and the list goes on and on. You want prove, there you have it. And just wait, when we start drilling and fracking for this so called bounty of oil, then you will have counties, towns and cities fighting over drinking water. The evidence is overwhelming. I am glad she is taking a stand.

  • Bob Winslow Nov 14, 2015
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    Bless her heart

  • John McCray Nov 14, 2015
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    I'm glad to see that she is strong enough to stand for her convictions. It's a shame to see that our educational system has failed many of the commenters here, leaving them unable to differentiate between rhetoric and vetted, scientific study.

    Yes, I'm aware of rhetoric on both sides, but the scientific communities collection and interpretation of data shows that industrialization is making a significant effect on the Earth's climate.

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