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.


Climate expert: ‘The harm will get worse’

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.

‘Running in the wrong direction’

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.”

Indigenous experiences headline third day of Held v. Montana trial

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.”

Renewable energy and health impacts highlighted in climate trial 

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.

Important reading

‘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.

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