- On Monday, a Montana state court judge ruled in the case of Held v. Montana, deciding that the state had violated the rights of 16 youth and young adults when a law was passed that prohibited agencies from taking climate change into account when approving new fossil fuel projects.1
- In reversing the law, state District Court Judge Kathy Seely ruled that the legislation violated the state constitution's clause guaranteeing a "clean and healthful environment."2
- The plaintiffs, who were between the ages of 2 and 18 when the suit was filed in 2020, argued that Montana was responsible for an outsized share of global emissions due to its oil, gas, and coal production. At trial, many of the youth testified about the effects of climate change on their lives and family.3
- The state had argued that Montana's share of global emissions was negligible and that if the state stopped emitting carbon dioxide entirely it would have no effect on global climate change. In light of this, the state says, the court has no grounds to provide relief for the plaintiffs.4
- In her verdict, Judge Seely wrote that the plaintiffs proved Montana's carbon emissions were a "substantial factor" in the effects of climate change seen in the state, deciding that children and youth were "disproportionately harmed" by climate impacts.5
- The Montana attorney general's office has vowed to appeal the rule.2
- Left narrative, as provided by The Conversation. This win is dramatic, to say the least, as a common law basis for a right to a safe climate may be established in the US. Several states have a clean environment clause in their constitution, which are now open to climate-centered interpretation in light of this ruling. The American people may finally have legal recourse against environmental degradation and climate destruction. This is a huge win for the planet.
- Right narrative, as provided by National Review. The reasoning was highly suspect in this ruling, with the state's assessment of this being a publicity stunt having only a kernel of truth to it. Montana's role in climate change is infinitesimally small, with the plaintiffs trying to get a remedy the court simply cannot provide. This reasoning will not withstand scrutiny nationwide, as it's legislatures, not the legal system, that establish environmental regulation.