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Ruling Favors Environmentalists, State Constitution

District Court Judge Kathy Seeley sided Monday, Aug. 13, with environmental activists who said state agencies were violating their constitutional right to “a clean and healthful environment” by permitting fossil fuel development without considering its effect on the climate. The judge ruled that the policy the state uses in evaluating requests for fossil fuel permits, a process which does not allow agencies to evaluate the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, is unconstitutional.

“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,” Judge Seeley wrote.

A spokesperson for Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen decried the ruling and said the office planned to appeal.

Attorneys for the 16 plaintiffs presented evidence during the trial in June that increasing carbon dioxide emissions are driving hotter temperatures, more drought and wildfires and decreased snowpack.

The state’s case argued that even if Montana completely stopped producing C02, it would have no effect on a global scale.

Plaintiffs argued that changes were harming their mental and physical health, adding that wildfire smoke chokes the air and drought dries out rivers that sustain agriculture, fish, wildlife and recreation.

State officials tried to derail the case and prevent it from going to trial through numerous motions to dismiss the lawsuit. Seeley rejected those attempts.

It is now up to the Republican dominated state Legislature to determine how to best comply.

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