Montana youth climate trial ends early after historic week of testimony
Helena, Montana - The historic Held v. Montana youth-led climate trial has come to an early close as plaintiffs seek to hold the state accountable for greenhouse gas emissions.
The groundbreaking trial, which opened June 12, brought together 16 Montana youth who accused the state of violating their constitutional right to a "clean and healthful environment."
Judge Kathy Seeley heard arguments and is set to rule on the plaintiffs' challenge to a provision in the Montana Environmental Policy Act which prohibits government agencies from considering climate impacts when reviewing fossil fuel permitting applications.
The plaintiffs, their attorneys, and scientific experts made a powerful case, speaking to the way human-made climate change is negatively impacting the quality of life of Montana youth and Indigenous communities.
The legal team representing the state of Montana argued that climate change is a global issue and that change needs to happen through legislative rather than judicial means. Only three defense witnesses were called.
The plaintiffs – backed by expert witnesses – countered that fossil fuel projects in Montana, green lit by the state, have a devastating impact on local environments and contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.
Montana youth seek to set powerful precedent
Held v. Montana is the first constitutional climate trial of its kind in the US, but more are expected to follow.
There are already similar lawsuits pending in four other states in addition to a federal suit, Juliana v. United States.
"The fossil fuel industry should be terrified because fights like this are going to pop up across the country as Gen Z and a growing Gen Alpha fight to protect their futures from climate disaster," Varshini Prakash, executive director of Sunrise Movement, told The Guardian.
A decision in the Held v. Montana case is not expected for several weeks.
Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire