Based on the extensive scientific evidence presented at the trial in June, Judge Seeley found that the Montana youth are being harmed by climate change occurring in Montana and that those climate change effects can be attributed to the state law the plaintiffs challenged.

By Amber Polk, The Conversation

Sixteen young Montanans who sued their state over climate change emerged victorious on Aug. 14, 2023, from a first-of-its-kind climate trial.

montana state house helena

The case, Held v. State of Montana, was based on allegations that state energy policies violate the young plaintiffs’ constitutional right to “a clean and healthful environment” – a right that has been enshrined in the Montana Constitution since the 1970s. The plaintiffs claimed that state laws promoting fossil fuel extraction and forbidding the consideration of climate impacts during environmental review violate their constitutional environmental right.

Judge Kathy Seeley’s ruling in the youths’ favor sets a powerful precedent for the role of “green amendments” in climate litigation.

The lawsuit, heard in Montana district court, was the first in the U.S. to rely on a state’s constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment to challenge state policies that fuel climate change. In light of the success in Held, it won’t be the last.

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