Why are 16 Kids suing Montana

The moment your plane lands, you step outside, breathing the first breath of what feels like fresh air, leaving you feeling as though you have not breathed in months. The mountains suck you in and make you feel at home, with a smell of fresh pine in the air, accompanied by a forest of trees. Trout swim free along colorful rocks and the sky is filled with glaciers. You relax under a blanket of stars soaking in a hot spring created only by mother nature. Not wandering far from a dream, Montana leaves many speechless to say the very least.

Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill last month in May that is being considered by many as one of the most anti-climate laws. Under House Bill 971, The Montana Department of Environmental Quality and other state regulators cannot consider greenhouse gas emissions and climate impacts when conducting environmental reviews for large projects. Kicking out a decade-old state law that already had banned the state from considering “actual or potential impacts that are Regional, National, or Global in nature.”   

“Our families are already suffering from an increase in the number of sweltering summer days, longer wildfire and smoke seasons, and historic drought,” Winona Bateman, executive director of Families for a Livable Climate, told the Montana Free Press. “I am not sure how Gov. Gianforte imagines we will do our part to address these growing impacts or pay for them if we’re not working to eliminate the root cause.” 

In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency found that climate change over the next few decades will decrease the availability of water in Montanna, affect agriculture yields, and nurture an increase in the risk of wildfires, along the iconic glaciers, ever part of the backdrop of Montana, rapidly melting. The prediction is that these changes could happen by 2030 if no changes are made.  

On Monday, 16 youths will stand before a judge for a first-of-its-kind lawsuit, deciding whether the state’s contribution to climate change violates its Constitution, promising the right to a “clean and healthy environment.” These kids are not just standing for their own good but also for the good of children worldwide, in hopes of influencing other kids to make a change for the better; and remind them that their voice matters.  

Of the 16 kids standing (some as young as five), they argue that the state legislators have put the interests of the state’s fossil fuel industry over their own future and the climate. Some experts say that if the plaintiffs win, the case could be used as a boost for climate change efforts in other states.  

Fifteen-year-old Badge Busse told Montana public radio,   

“It is hard to watch the things that I love get depleted slowly, like fishing with my dad. It is like, my main way to hang out with him and my brother.” 

Representing the state, lawyers urged for the case to be partially dismissed. After the law passed, it revokes part of Montana’s energy policy that the lawsuit sought to challenge, but District Court Judge Kathy Seeley denied the state’s request to dismiss the case.  

The 16 children will be represented by our Children’s Trust, which has in the past fielded climate lawsuits on behalf of American Youth in every state since 2010. Making history, this is the first time Montana will go to trial, with proceedings projected to last as long as two weeks.  

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