Montana AG Plans to Appeal Climate Change Ruling

Plants and climate change with the concept of global warming.

( – Montana District Court Judge Kathy Seeley sided with 16 young plaintiffs in a ruling which states that the approval process for fossil fuel permits in Montana violates their state constitution because it does not factor in the impact on carbon emissions. Due to how carbon emissions cause climate change in Montana’s environment, Seeley asserted that the plaintiffs are harmed by fossil fuel pollution and climate impacts due to their young age, reasoning that they will live through any repercussions that emissions cause.

The ruling won’t prevent mining or burning fossil fuels in the state. Instead, it blocks a state law prohibiting state agencies from considering climate change, or planet-warming pollution, during the permitting process.

Republican Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen will appeal the ruling, believing the trial was a taxpayer-funded publicity stunt and asserting that Montanans do not hold blame for any change in the climate. Montana has a history of fossil fuel production, with it having 30% of the nation’s coal and relying upon gas and electricity as exports, which means this ruling impacts the state’s economic productivity.

However, climate activists see this as a victory for youth, who they believe will suffer from extreme weather due to the environmental repercussions of fossil fuel usage. This case could also have legal implications for other climate litigation, with similar lawsuits in other states throughout the United States.

The political nature of the dispute may impact the upcoming Montana Senate race in 2024. With energy as an issue that Republicans can focus on, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) will have a competitive race ahead of him if he wishes to win re-election. Polling from earlier this year showed that prospective candidate Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) has a 5-point lead over Tester in the Senate battleground state, which Trump won by over 20 points. Republicans need only to win two Democratic-held seats to regain control of the Senate, which means additional pressure on Tester will likely mount as the election approaches.

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