A group of young people in Montana won a landmark lawsuit on Monday when a judge ruled that the state’s failure to consider climate change when approving fossil fuel projects was unconstitutional. The decision in the suit, Held v. Montana, coming during a summer of record heat and deadly wildfires, marks a victory in the expanding fight against government support for oil, gas and coal, the burning of which has rapidly warmed the planet. The court found that young people have a constitutional right to a healthful environment and that the state must consider potential climate damage when approving projects. The Montana case revolved around language in the 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.” A handful of other states have similar guarantees, and young people in Hawaii, Utah and Virginia have filed lawsuits that are slowly winding their way through courts. A federal case brought by young people, which had been stalled for years, is once again moving, heading toward a June trial in Oregon.
By David Gelles and Mike Baker. New York Times. August 14, 2023.