On August 14 Montana district court Judge Kathy Seeley declared Montana’s fossil fuel-promoting laws unconstitutional and enjoined their implementation. In a 103-page order, Judge Seeley said that by prohibiting government agencies from considering climate impacts when deciding whether or not to permit energy projects, Montana is contributing to the climate crisis and stopping the state from addressing that crisis. She found that every additional ton of greenhouse gas pollution warms the planet, and that harms to the plaintiffs “will grow increasingly severe and irreversible without science-based actions to address climate change”.
The case was brought by 16 plaintiffs aged five to 22, who argued that the state’s pro-fossil fuel policies violated provisions in the state constitution that guarantee a “clean and healthful environment.” While young people have been suing for a decade in state and federal courts for recognition of a constitutional right to a stable climate, this case marks the first time in US history that a court has ruled on the merits of the case that a government violated young people’s constitutional rights by promoting fossil fuels. Michael Gerrard of the Columbia University Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, said, “I think this is the strongest decision on climate change ever issued by any court.”