By Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press
This article is part of a series on the youth-led constitutional climate change lawsuit Held v. Montana, which goes to trial in Helena on June 12. The rest of the series can be read at mtclimatecase.flatheadbeacon.com. This project is produced by the Flathead Beacon newsroom, in collaboration with Montana Free Press, and is supported by the MIT Environmental Solutions Journalism Fellowship.
Montana has a long history of supplying the United States — and other countries — with heaps of raw material to generate and transmit electricity. Those natural resources include the Powder River Basin’s coal seams, the Bakken Formation’s oil and gas reservoirs, and Butte’s vast copper deposits. On the one hand, the Treasure State’s extraction of heavy metals and hydrocarbons has resulted in a grim environmental legacy, which includes the Berkeley Pit, a textbook remediation failure so toxic that in 2016 it killed thousands of migrating snow geese in a matter of days. On the other hand, that legacy has also helped engender some of the strongest constitutional protections for the environment in the country.