Natives file brief in greenhouse lawsuit

Posted: Tuesday, May 16, 2006

ANCHORAGE - Three Alaska Native groups filed a U.S. Supreme Court brief Monday in support of a lawsuit that would require the federal Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants contributing to global warming.

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The lawsuit was filed by a coalition made up of Massachusetts and nine other states, three cities and citizen advocacy groups. Eleven other states, including Alaska, and industry groups formally oppose the lawsuit.

The "friend of the court" brief filed Monday was submitted by Trustees for Alaska on behalf of the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments, and Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands, part of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Representatives of the groups said global warming threatens lives, traditions and communities of Alaska Natives and that changes in Alaska are an indication of devastation in store for other states if industrialized nations do not curb greenhouse gas emissions.

"The federal government must act now," said Faith Gemmill of REDOIL. "Global warming is a threat to the very existence of Alaska Native people's livelihood, the effects are profound, and we see that in every aspect of our traditional way of life."

Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide occur naturally and retain heat that otherwise would be reflected out of the atmosphere. Conservation groups say the effect is accelerated by humans burning carbon-based fuels in cars and industry, leading to dangerous warming that shows up most obviously near the planet's poles.

Litigants in the lawsuit in March appealed to the Supreme Court after the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA does not have to regulate greenhouse gases from vehicles as pollutants.

The Alaska groups said Alaska is on the front lines of global warming. They noted reductions in polar sea ice, receding glaciers, melting permafrost and the erosion of coastlines as a result.

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