On August 14, 2023, Judge Kathy Seeley ruled in favor of 16 youth plaintiffs in the landmark climate case Held v State of Montana. Read the ruling here.
Here’s an excerpt from a story by The Nation:
“The dam has finally broken,” said Anne Hedges, policy director for the Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC), a nonprofit that has litigated pollution cases for over 50 years. “Suddenly, we can talk about climate change. The question now is what happens next.”
The question moving forward is whether this requirement will result in a decrease in emissions. After all, Montana is a red state with a Department of Environmental Quality that hasn’t denied a permit for a coal, oil, or gas operation in three decades. And Seeley’s decision doesn’t obligate the state to mitigate climate impacts.
“We’re not Oregon. We’re not Washington. This state is going to dig in its heels,” Hedges said. “It’s organizations like MEIC who will have to breathe life into this decision.”
Hedges alluded to existing and pending litigation designed by MEIC to achieve that goal, and the central question in future court decisions, she asserted, will be determined by this case: “Is the climate a part of the environment? Yes or no.” She believes Held v. Montana has now legally answered that question, and the case will be the first of many losses for the Republican-controlled state government on climate cases over the next few years.
How many more years of litigation will be required before meaningful change occurs is a matter of speculation, but, as this question plays out in Montana, ripple effects from Seeley’s decision will be felt across the country. “It’s going to make other judges braver,” Hedges predicted.
On March 13, 2020, 16 young people from across Montana filed their constitutional climate lawsuit, Held v. State of Montana, against their state government. These young Montanans assert that, by supporting a fossil fuel-driven energy system that causes and contributes to the climate crisis, Montana is violating their constitutional rights to a clean and healthful environment; to seek safety, health, and happiness; and to individual dignity and equal protection of the law. This youth-led climate lawsuit also argues that the state’s fossil fuel energy system degrades and depletes Montana’s constitutionally protected public trust resources, including the atmosphere, rivers, lakes, fish, and wildlife.
This historic trial – the first children’s climate trial in U.S. history – began on Monday, June 12, 2023, in Helena, Montana, and concluded the following week.
Due to the courtroom’s limited capacity, the plaintiffs will be hosting a livestream event each day of the trial at alternating locations in Helena including The Myrna Loy, the Holter Museum of Art and at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. For updates on these locations, sign up at www.youthvgov.org/join or follow facebook.com/youthvgov.
- Montana Climate Case Series | Flathead Beacon and Montana Free Press,
- In Montana, It’s Youth vs. the State in a Landmark Climate Case | New York Times
- Sixteen Kids are Fighting the Climate Crisis in Court | Rolling Stone
- “All Eyes on Montana” | Held v Montana Community Meeting
- Youth lawsuit challenging Montana’s pro-fossil fuel policies is heading to trial | AP News
- Why Montana is emerging as a must-watch climate battleground | Washington Post
- A Climate Trial in Montana Sets the Scene for More | LegalPlanet
Full list of media coverage can be found here.