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Historic Win in Youth Climate Lawsuit: Held v Montana

Today 16 young Montanans made history in a landmark climate ruling. These young people argued that the state violated their constitutional rights under the Montana constitution to a "clean and healthful" environment by failing to take meaningful action on climate. They won.


The young plaintiffs were represented by Our Children's Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to intergenerational equity and climate action.





The sweeping 103-page decision by the trial court found:


  • That the state violated the student's constitutional rights.

  • That the young people showed standing and sufficient injury to file the claim.

  • That the young people also proved a disproportionate harm given that they will experience the full impact of climate change more than older generations.

  • That Montana's contributions to climate change were significant.

  • That the two laws limiting the Montana Environmental Policy Act from considering the impact of greenhouse gas emissions for energy project approval are unconstitutional. (This holding means that the state must revise it's pro-fossil fuel energy policies.)

This is why this case is so important:


In a press release, the lawyers of Our Children's Trust stated:

“Today, for the first time in U.S. history, a court ruled on the merits of a case that the government violated the constitutional rights of children through laws and actions that promote fossil fuels, ignore climate change, and disproportionately imperil young people,” said Julia Olson, Chief Legal Counsel and Executive Director with Our Children’s Trust

“In a sweeping win for our clients, the Honorable Judge Kathy Seeley declared Montana’s fossil fuel-promoting laws unconstitutional and enjoined their implementation. As fires rage in the West, fueled by fossil fuel pollution, today’s ruling in Montana is a game-changer that marks a turning point in this generation’s efforts to save the planet from the devastating effects of human-caused climate chaos. This is a huge win for Montana, for youth, for democracy, and for our climate. More rulings like this will certainly come.”


Micah Drew of The Flathead Beacon reports that "the whole case included 36 depositions, 22 expert reports, and 50,000 pages of documents." This is the first legal case where a judge ruled that climate change was real, that young people had standing to sue, and that the courts had the authority to issue a remedy (telling the state to revise its energy policy.)


There is no doubt that the state will appeal this judgment and the litigation will continue, but please take a moment to savor this win.


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