HELENA – Experts in energy policy and greenhouse gas measurement described a permissive regulatory framework in Montana that contributes more than 100 tons of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere annually in the fourth day of a climate trial brought by 16 young Montanans.

Montana Environmental Information Center co-director Anne Hedges said Montana’s legislative and executive branches are “running in the wrong direction to address the climate crisis” in the expert testimony she provided for the plaintiffs. Hedges said the only way the youth plaintiffs’ constitutional right to a “clean and healthful environment ” will be upheld is if the judicial branch intervenes to implement it.

The Held v. Montana trial before Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge Kathy Seeley has been described as historic. Through this lawsuit, the plaintiffs seek to hold the Montana government accountable for its energy-permitting policies. The 16 plaintiffs, who are between 5 and 22 years old, are arguing that their right to a “clean and healthful environment” has been violated. They are seeking a transition to a less carbon-intensive energy permitting framework by state agencies such as the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Hedges pulled from her 30-year tenure reviewing, commenting upon and suing over proposed and permitted fossil fuel projects to provide insight on the state’s energy priorities and how they’ve evolved over the years.