In Montana, It’s Youth vs. The State In A Landmark Climate Case

Sixteen young Montanans have sued their state, arguing that its support of fossil fuels violates the state Constitution. In their complaint, filed in 2020, the young activists seized on language in the Montana state Constitution that guarantees residents “the right to a clean and healthful environment,” and stipulates that the state and individuals are responsible for maintaining and improving the environment “for present and future generations.” It was in 1972 that the Montana Constitution was amended to include the language guaranteeing citizens “the right to a clean and healthful environment.”  The trial, which legal experts say is the first involving a constitutional climate case, begins on June 12 in the state capital of Helena. In its response to the lawsuit, the state disputed the overwhelming scientific consensus that the burning of fossil fuels was driving climate change and denied that Montana was experiencing increasingly severe weather linked to rising temperatures. The plaintiffs are seeking “declaratory relief.” That is, they want the judge to acknowledge that fossil fuels are causing pollution and warming the planet and declare the state’s support for the industry unconstitutional.

By David Gelles. New York Times. March 24, 2023.

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