In the lawsuit, originally filed in September 2015, the young plaintiffs have accused the federal government of violating their constitutional rights by knowing about the dangerous climate impacts of burning fossil fuels and supporting the development of fossil fuel production anyway.
The federal government under the Obama administration, along with fossil fuel companies, requested dismissal of the case, but a federal district court judge in Oregon ruled last fall that the case could proceed. Now, Juliana v. United States could go to trial as early as this year, possibly proving to be a check against the Trump administration's pro-fossil fuel agenda.
"I am hopeful that our case will reverse or prevent all damage our current president may inflict," Aji Piper, 16-year-old plaintiff from Seattle, said in a statement. "I hope that our trial may shed light upon the issue of climate change, and educate the American populace on the difference between real and 'alternative' facts."
The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
In the coming weeks, notice of deposition is expected to be given to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, according to Julia Olson, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs and executive director of the advocacy group Our Children's Trust. A judge ruled last month that the plaintiffs could depose Tillerson, the former chief executive of ExxonMobil Corp., if he was confirmed. Tillerson was subsequently confirmed