‘Unusually high’ number of court briefs filed in teen environmental lawsuit

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HELENA — After a week-long trial last summer, a Helena judge ruled in favor of 16 young plaintiffs who challenged the state of Montana over their constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment. . State leaders immediately appealed the ruling, and that appeal is expected to be heard in the Montana Supreme Court in the coming months.

In the high-profile case Held v. Montana, the plaintiffs, ages 5 to 22, argued that Montana’s response to greenhouse gas emissions contributed to climate change and violated their rights under the state constitution. claimed to have done so.

District Judge Kathy Seeley said in her ruling that climate could be considered part of the constitutional guarantee of a “clean and healthy environment.” He said there is a “substantial traceable link” between state laws that prevent regulators from considering greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews and the climate impacts that contributed to the plaintiffs’ damages. He said that there is. Seeley declared the law unconstitutional and also said another law says greenhouse gas challenges generally cannot be used to invalidate or delay permits.

Plaintiffs’ supporters called the decision a landmark decision that links the state’s energy policy to the effects of climate change and could set a precedent for future climate-related litigation.

But lawyers for the state argued in a brief of appeal filed earlier this month that the case should never have gone to trial. They said climate policy is a political issue that should not be decided in court and questioned whether the relief sought by the plaintiffs would address the harms they cited.

Widespread interest in the Held case is evidenced by the number of court briefs from groups and individuals not directly involved in the case but asking the court to consider their opinions. As of Friday, the Montana Supreme Court had received nine amicus briefs on the appeal, and Supreme Court Clerk Bowen Greenwood said MTN is much more than a typical case. .

The court filing includes briefs from House Speaker Matt Regier (R-Kalispell) and Senate President Jason Ellsworth (R-Hamilton), both of whom say they are committed to ensuring a clean and healthy environment. They argued that it was the legislature’s responsibility to enact laws, and that Seeley’s decision was an aberration. their authority.

Other briefs from the Montana Chamber of Commerce and other business groups said the decision could lead to further litigation, delaying projects and delaying needed investments in Montana. . A group of 15 Republican attorneys general from other states believes it is inevitable that a judge’s order will force Montana to interfere in energy policy outside its state borders and make decisions that affect the rights of other states. showed that.

The plaintiffs have until next month to file briefs in response to the state’s appeal. The state will then have one more chance to respond before the case goes to the Supreme Court justices.

Once a judge files a case, it is up to them to decide when they are ready to make a decision.

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