Youthful shouts of victory filled the air in Montana after a landmark pronouncement in favor of young climate change activists. A judge ruled that the state of Montana’s fossil fuel projects had violated a climate-friendly constitutional provision.
In the first-of-its-kind ruling, Judge Kathy Seeley of the Lewis and Clark County District Court declared that Montana’s fossil fuel projects violated a section of the law. This section read, “The state and each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations.”
A section of Judge Seeley’s controversial ruling read, “Montana’s (greenhouse gas) emissions and climate change have been proven to be a substantial factor in causing climate impacts to Montana’s environment and harm and injury to the youth plaintiffs.” The judgment hasn’t gone down well with Montana justice officials. A statement from the Attorney General’s Office has vowed to appeal the verdict.
According to state officials, Montana cannot be held responsible for climate change. Commenting on the issue, spokeswoman for Montana’s Attorney General, Emily Flower, asserted that there was no proof that Montana contributed to climate change. “Even the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses agreed that our state has no impact on the global climate,” she said.
Still speaking on the issue, Emily Flower reminded newsmen that many such cases had been struck out in numerous states. She wondered why Montana would become the exception.
Climate change issues have put on a political garb in recent years. Mrs. Flower believes that the ruling was influenced by political ideology. “They found an ideological judge who bent over backward to allow the case to move forward and earn herself a spot in their next documentary,” she declared.
To make the ruling, the judge had to invalidate a provision in the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA). This act, which provided legality to Montana’s fossil fuel projects, seemed to contradict the earlier cited pro-climate provision on which the ruling rested upon.
On the side of the youth climate activists, it was a sweet victory for the environment. They initiated the suit in 2020 with the help of the Western Environmental Law Center and Our Children’s Trust, a non-profit organization.
The activists, who ranged from age 5 to 22, testified about the apparent fallout of climate change in their communities. These adverse effects included breathing difficulties from wildfire smoke and the inability of Native Americans to access traditional food sources.
According to 20-year-old Olivia Vesovich, who gave her testimony in the trial, “It feels like it’s suffocating me, like if I’m outside for minutes,” talking about the bad air. “Climate change is wreaking so much havoc on our world right now, and I know that will only be getting worse,” she continued.
The victory will beat the drums for other activists who could have given up on the seemingly lost legal battle for environmental protection. As more young people join the growing environmental protection campaign, we can expect loads of similar lawsuits to spring up across the country soonest.
More such victories would deal a monumental blow to efforts to expand power plants, coal mines, and other fossil fuel infrastructure across the country.