A U.S. federal judge in the western state of Montana on Monday ruled in favor of a group of youths who argued the right to a safe environment had been constitutionally violated by legislators promoting fossil fuels.
“District Court Judge Kathy Seeley found the policy the state uses in evaluating requests for fossil fuel permits — which does not allow agencies to evaluate the effects of greenhouse gas emissions — is unconstitutional,” reported the National Public Radio.
Judge Seeley wrote in the 137-page ruling that Montana’s emissions and climate change have been proven to be a substantial factor in causing climate impacts to Montana’s environment and harm and injury to the youth.
The ruling is a major setback for conservatives backing fossil fuel burning in Montana. The current legislation in the state barred consideration of greenhouse gas emissions as permit-issuing criteria for fossil fuel projects.
The Montana case began with a lawsuit filed in March 2020 by 16 young Montanans, aged 5 to 22, who argued the government violated their rights guaranteed by the state constitution “to a clean and healthful environment, by developing fossil fuel projects.”
Monday’s ruling was the first of its kind in the United States and added to a few legal decisions that have helped form a government duty to protect citizens from climate change fallout.
Julia Olson, an attorney representing the youth, called the ruling a “huge win for Montana, for youth, for democracy, and for our climate” in a statement.