Montana’s energy policy and chief environmental law violates the state’s constitutional guarantee to a “clean and healthful environment,” a new lawsuit filed by 16 Montana youths alleges.
The lawsuit, recently filed with the aid of environmental legal groups, was brought by the 16 youth mostly through their parents and guardians in Lewis and Clark County District Court. Citing climate science predicting harmful effects of climate change, they ask the court to find that the state’s energy plan and one of the primary environmental laws, the Montana Environmental Policy Act, violate the Montana Constitution.
State agencies, Gov. Steve Bullock and the Montana Public Service Commission are named as defendants in the case.
“Although Defendants know that Youth Plaintiffs are living under dangerous climatic conditions that create an unreasonable risk of harm, they continue to act affirmatively to exacerbate the climate crisis,” the lawsuit says. “Youth Plaintiffs, most of whom cannot vote, therefore seek this Court’s judgment and redress.”
The lawsuit claims that Montana’s energy policy’s reliance on fossil fuels and related climate impacts run counter to the constitutional guarantee to a clean and healthful environment. It further claims that MEPA, which dictates that the state first analyze the environmental impacts of its decisions, also contains an unconstitutional provision. The provision excludes the state from considering environmental impacts beyond its borders, which Shiloh Hernandez, attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, says has been used to exclude consideration of climate science.