Description: Lawsuit seeking declaration of right under the Montana constitution to a stable climate system and to compel Montana to prepare and implement a remedial plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Held v. State
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 08/04/2021 Order Download Motion to dismiss granted in part and denied in part. Montana Court Allowed Youth Plaintiffs to Proceed with Constitutional and Public Trust Climate Claims. A Montana District Court concluded that youth plaintiffs had standing for their claims that the Montana State Energy Policy and the “Climate Change Exception” to the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) violate the Montana Constitution—which includes provisions declaring that Montana citizens possess an inalienable right to a clean and healthful environment—and the public trust doctrine. The Climate Change Exception provides that environmental review under MEPA may not include “actual or potential impacts that are regional, national, or global in nature.” The court found that the plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that their alleged harms were caused by carbon emissions for which the State defendants were responsible, that they had “sufficiently raised a factual dispute as to whether the State Energy Policy was a substantial factor in causing Youth Plaintiffs’ injuries,” and that the plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that actions pursuant to the Climate Change Exception implicated their right to a clean and healthful environment. The court further found that the harms would be redressable by declaratory relief. The court agreed with the defendants, however, that injunctive relief ordering a remedial plan or an accounting of greenhouse gas emissions would violate the political question doctrine. The court rejected the argument that the plaintiffs failed to exhaust administrative remedies, finding that the plaintiffs could bring a direct action in court without first seeking administrative review. 03/13/2020 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Youth Plaintiffs Filed Climate Lawsuit Against Montana Asserting Violations of State Constitutional Rights. Sixteen young people filed a lawsuit in Montana state court asserting climate change-based claims under the Montana constitution against the State of Montana, its governor, and state agencies. In particular, the case challenges the constitutionality of Montana’s fossil fuel-based State Energy Policy and the “Climate Change Exception” in the Montana Environmental Policy Act. The plaintiffs allege that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions were “already triggering a host of adverse consequences in Montana, including dangerously increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, increasing droughts and extreme weather events, increasing the frequency and severity of wildfires, increasing glacial melt, and causing numerous adverse health risks, especially to children,” and that defendants had continued “to act affirmatively to exacerbate the climate crisis” despite their awareness that the plaintiffs were living under “dangerous climatic conditions that create an unreasonable risk of harm.” The plaintiffs seek a declaration that their right to a clean and healthful environment includes a right a stable climate system, as well as declarations that the State Energy Policy and the Climate Change Exception violate the Public Trust Doctrine and constitutional provisions that protect the right to a clean and healthful environment; the right to seek safety, health, and happiness; and the right to individual dignity and equal protection. They also seek injunctive relief in the form of orders directing the defendants to prepare an accounting of Montana’s greenhouse gas emissions and to develop and implement a remedial plan to reduce emissions “consistent with the best available science and reductions necessary to protect Youth Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights from further infringement … , and to reduce the cumulative risk of harm to those rights.”