A lawsuit filed by 16 children against Montana that argues the state’s continuous use of fossil fuels that the lawsuit claims has contributed to the climate crisis will go to trial on June 12, 2023 and concluded on June 23.
This will be the first children’s climate trial in US history, which will see the young plaintiffs argue how the state is violating their constitutional rights.
The lawsuit, filed in March 2020, describes how children are more vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, noting it ‘harms their physical and psychological health and safety, interferes with family and cultural foundations and integrity, and causes economic deprivations.’
It also includes how each child has been personally impacted by the climate crisis such how wildfires pose a threat to the youngest who has respiratory issues and another whose family relies on a river for their business that has dried up in past years.
The children are not looking for a lump sum of money, but, if the court rules in their favor, the group wants defendants to ‘bring the state energy system into constitutional compliance,’ the March 2020 filing states.
The lawsuit includes details for from each plaintiff, describing how each plaintiff has been personally impacted by the climate crisis.
For example, Rikki, who was 18 at the time of the filing, included a story about her family-owned cattle ranch.
One the ranch is the Powder River that her family relies on to grow crops and hydrate cattle.
The river dried up in 2007 and then in spring of 2017, ‘abnormally high temperatures linked to the climate crisis caused the frozen river to melt at a rapid rate and flood,’ the lawsuit reads.
The youngest of the group, Nathaniel, was two at the time of the filing – he is now four years old.
Nathaniel has respiratory issues that cause him frequent illnesses and the document claims the climate crisis is increasing the length and severity of Montana’s wildfire season which poses a threat on the young boy’s health.
The document continues to explain that due to the increased wildfires, Nathaniel spends much of his time indoors rather than being outside enjoying nature.
Nate Bellinger, Senior Staff Attorney at Our Children’s Trust and co-counsel for the youth plaintiffs, said in a statement on Tuesday: ‘Trial preparations have been ongoing for months and we are very excited to have new trial dates confirmed for next June.
‘This trial will be an historic opportunity for these 16 young Montanans, and their experts, to testify in open court about how the state of Montana’s historic and ongoing promotion of fossil fuels is causing plaintiffs grave injuries, and the urgent need for judicial intervention.
‘As climate destructions mount with each passing month, it has never been more important for youth-led constitutional climate cases, such as this one, to have their day in court.”
He concluded, “Next June, the eyes of the world will be on Montana.”
The suit alleges that Montana’s fossil fuel energy system degrades and depletes constitutionally-protected public trust resources, including the atmosphere, rivers, lakes, fish, and wildlife.
Mica, who is now 14 and one of the youth plaintiffs, said in a statement: ‘I am eager to have our day in court so all of the plaintiffs’ voices can be heard.
‘Young people will be the ones to suffer the most if Montana continues the promotion of fossil fuels and I hope our trial will help turn our future for the better.’
Montana is rich in both fossil fuels and renewable resources, but in 2021, coal-fired power plants produced 43 percent of Montana’s electricity, compared with hydropower at 41 percent and wind power at 12percent, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).