Rocky Mountain teens sue over fossil fuel-friendly policies.
In Montana, wildfires are destroying ranchland, drought is killing fish, and heat is harming traditional tribal food sources like huckleberries. To the south, Utahns are inhaling a toxic concoction of tailpipe and smokestack emissions, made worse by wildfire smoke. And young Westerners say these states are infringing on their rights by boosting fossil fuel development and causing the changes in the climate that accelerate these problems.
The West is a hotspot for lawsuits arguing that climate change-inducing policies are at odds with state constitutions: Three out of five pending state climate cases brought by young plaintiffs originated in the Western U.S. In March, several young Utahns filed a complaint in Utah’s 3rd Judicial Court, declaring that dangerous air quality and climate change are harming their health and safety, interfering with their development and shortening their life expectancy. A similar case in Montana made news earlier this year, when a court date was set for February 2023. This is a new wave of narrowly tailored youth climate cases that could, unlike earlier cases, lead to some legal wins.
High school students walk out of school to demonstrate at the Utah Capitol in 2019.
Held v. Montana marks the first time in U.S. history that a youth-led climate change lawsuit will go to trial, and Natalie R. v. State of Utah could follow suit. Both cases face a legal system that has for years stymied and punted on similar cases, including their best-known predecessor, the federal case Juliana v. United States, along with state litigation from Alaska to Californi …