Will Climate Cases Like Held v. Montana Affect Businesses Nationwide?

Proactively supporting environmental rights can help companies come out ahead.

Lake surrounded by trees in the foreground and mountains in the background
Photo by David Morris / Unsplash

The first constitutional climate lawsuit to go to trial in the U.S.—Held v. Montana—resulted in a win for the youth plaintiffs earlier this month.

In this case, Judge Kathy Seeley in the First Judicial District Court of Montana ruled that the state enacted unconstitutional laws that violate the rights of Montana’s youth, such as how a provision in the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) did not allow the state to look at the impact of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change when conducting environmental reviews for permitting, such as for fossil fuel projects.

“By enacting and enforcing the MEPA Limitation, the State is failing to meet their affirmative duty to protect Plaintiffs' right to a clean and healthful environment, and to protect Montana's natural resources from unreasonable depletion,” the ruling states.

Part of the evidence comes from the Montana constitution, which includes provisions such as “All persons are born free and have certain inalienable rights. They include the right to a clean and healthful environment,” among others.

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