Edit March 23: A correction version of this story clarified the judgement of the 2011 case mentioned.
Environmental activist groups representing 16 young Montanans are suing the state in hopes of changing Montana climate policies.
Advocacy groups filed the lawsuit on behalf of the kids in Lewis and Clark County Court on March 13.
The suit criticizes the state for permitting industry activities like mining and resource extraction that produce what it calls excessive amounts of greenhouse gasses.
Seventeen-year-old Claire Vlases from Bozeman says the state should draft a science-based climate recovery plan.
“I think there’s more that our state ought to do to move away from supporting and promoting fossil fuels," Vlases said.
The lawsuit says that current policies violate the kids’ right to live in a clean environment.
The law firms Our Children’s Trust, Western Environmental Law Center and McGarvey Law are representing the 16 kids, ages 2 to 18. The defendants include the State of Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock and a number of state agencies, including the Montana Dept. of Environmental Quality and the Montana Public Service Commission.
Some of these same kids were involved in a 2011 case Our Children’s Trust filed in Montana Supreme Court. The court dismissed that petition saying the case should go before a lower court. Our Children’s Trust says it has similar cases pending in Florida, Alaska, Oregon and Washington State.
The firm also filed a lawsuit representing 21 kids nationally in 2015, and the organization filed for a rehearing this month after a court dismissed that case earlier in the year.
YPR reached out to the Department of Environmental Quality and a spokesperson said it is unable to comment because the lawsuit is ongoing.