Filed in March 2020 and scheduled to begin June 12, 2023, the lawsuit Held v. State of Montana was brought by 16 youth plaintiffs from across Montana who allege the state has violated their constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. The complaint focuses on two statutes — provisions of Montana’s state energy policy which explicitly promotes the use of fossil fuels, and an amendment to the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA), which prevents the state from considering how the state’s projects contribute to climate change.
Attorneys in the youth-led constitutional climate change lawsuit Held v. Montana delivered opening statements in a crowded Helena courtroom where the landmark environmental trial is set to unfold over the next two weeks.
Attorneys representing 16 youth plaintiffs in a constitutional climate-change lawsuit against the state of Montana on Tuesday morning presented testimony from Cathy Whitlock, an internationally renowned Earth scientist who told a Helena courtroom how the state’s steady temperature increase will affect future generations.
Annual emissions associated with the extraction, transportation and combustion of fossil fuels from Montana are greater than comparable emissions from more than 100 countries, an environmental consultant with the Stockholm Environment Institute told Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge Kathy Seeley during the fourth day of a climate trial over Montana’s energy policies. Another expert for the 16 youth plaintiffs said the state is “running in the wrong direction to address the climate crisis.”
Sariel Sandoval, a member of the Bitterroot Salish, Upper Pend d’Oreille, and Diné Tribes and one of 16 youth plaintiffs suing the state of Montana over its contributions to climate change, testified Wednesday that changes to Montana’s environment directly impact her tribal identity. “The way we identify ourselves as Salish people, sqelixw, the root word translates to ‘flesh and land,’” Sandoval said. “That really shows the importance in our role as human beings and our connection to the land and the natural environment.”
Plaintiffs in a first-of-its-kind youth climate lawsuit sought to illustrate both the feasibility of transitioning Montana to fossil fuel-free energy sources and the physical, emotional and societal dangers of a “business as usual” approach to climate policy in the fifth day of the Held v. Montana bench trial.
On the final day of a groundbreaking constitutional climate trial that activists hope will establish solid legal precedent and incite systemic change to Montana’s standard of approving fossil fuel projects, an 18-year-old plaintiff from Kalispell characterized the end of the lengthy legal proceedings as “just the beginning.”
Landmark lawsuit alleges Montana’s government knowingly contributes to climate change by approving policies and projects that promote a fossil-fuel based energy economy, violating the young plaintiffs’ constitutional right to ‘a clean and healthful environment.’
When Montana’s constitution was ratified by voters in 1972 it enshrined a citizen’s right to a clean and healthful environment into the future. The youth-led climate change lawsuit Held v. Montana is predicated on this right and its interpretation through Montana’s courts.
How the recent legislative session passed a slew of laws that highlight lawmakers’ energy priorities, and took direct aim at the pivotal case, Held v. Montana.
About The Plaintiffs
Early exposure to scientific rigor and climate change’s impact on ranches led Rikki Held to lend her name to the nation’s first constitutional climate change lawsuit to reach trial.
For the Busse brothers, climate change is a reality — and a violation of their constitutional rights
Two Kalispell brothers cite changes to skiing and hunting seasons as reasons for joining the coalition of Montana youth suing several state agencies over failure to secure their “right to a clean and healthful environment”
Mica Kantor, 14, says he has felt the impacts of the changing climate on the roads, tracks and trails he runs on, prompting his inclusion as a plaintiff in Held v. Montana.
Bigfork teenager Kian Tanner was raised beside the Flathead Valley’s scenic mountains and rivers. Now, he’s fighting to save them.
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Montana has a long history of making money by extracting and exporting its natural resources, namely coal. State politicians and Montana’s largest electricity utility company seem set on keeping it that way.
House Bill 971 bars state regulators like the Montana Department of Environmental Quality from including analyses of greenhouse gas emissions and climate impacts, both within and outside Montana’s borders, when conducting comprehensive reviews of large projects.
It’s legislative day 66. We’re in the home stretch of the 2023 legislative session. It’s time to debate changes to Montana’s Constitution. Lawmakers look at ways to address the state’s affordable housing crisis and make rules about what local governments should and shouldn’t be able to do to address climate change.