By Chris Woodward
(The Center Square) – A Montana judge ruled the rights of 16 young climate activists have been violated by the state by depriving them of a clean environment from continued fossil fuel development.
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen plans on appealing District Court Judge Kathy Seeley’s ruling, a spokesperson told The Center Square.
“The [Montana Environmental Policy Act] Limitation is unconstitutionally contributing to the depletion and degradation of Montana’s environment and natural resources and contributing to Plaintiffs’ injuries,” Seeley wrote in the ruling announced on Monday. “The MEPA Limitation deprives Plaintiffs of their constitutionally guaranteed rights.”
“The current barriers to implementing renewable energy systems are not technical or economic, but social and political,” the judge continued. “Such barriers primarily result from government policies that slow down and inhibit the transition to renewables, and laws that allow utilization of fossil fuel development and preclude a faster transition to a clean, renewable energy system.”
Attorney Barbara Chillcott of Western Environmental Law Center, which was involved in this case, called it “incredibly gratifying” that a court recognize the impact of “harmful energy policies” on people of all ages.
“Judge Seeley’s ruling underscores the reality that Montana’s government is actively working to undermine our constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment,” Chillcott said in a press release. “Despite the state’s attempts to avoid any responsibility, the court’s decision affirms that the state has the ‘discretion to deny permits for fossil fuel activities that would result in unconstitutional levels of greenhouse gas emissions, unconstitutional degradation, and depletion of Montana’s environment and natural resources, or infringement of the constitutional rights of Montanans and Youth Plaintiffs.’”
Chilcott added that this ruling sets a precedent for other climate cases in the nation, while at the same time “gives these youth plaintiffs some hope for a better future.”
Emily Flower, Knudsen’s spokeswoman, called the ruling “absurd” and the trial a “weeklong taxpayer-funded publicity stunt” put on by the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
“Montanans can’t be blamed for changing the climate – even the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses agreed that our state has no impact on the global climate,” Flower told The Center Square. “Their same legal theory has been thrown out of federal court and courts in more than a dozen states.”
Flower said it should have been tossed in Montana as well, but plaintiffs found an “ideological judge who bent over backward to allow the case to move forward and earn herself a spot in their next documentary.”
Chris Woodward is a contributor to The Center Square.
Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.
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