On Monday, a far-left climate activist group scored a legal victory when a judge in Montana ruled in their favor, declaring that state agencies are legally obligated to protect citizens from so-called “global warming.”
As ABC News reports, District Court Judge Kathy Seeley determined that the state of Montana’s current policy of evaluating requests for fossil fuel permits is unconstitutional, as it does not include a provision forcing agencies to consider greenhouse gas emissions. If it stands, it could set a similar precedent for the entire country.
However, as the ruling comes from a state court and is based on state laws, its immediate impact will be limited. State officials have vowed to appeal the ruling so that it may be overturned by a higher court.
“To be sure, it is a state court not a federal court and the ruling is based on a state constitution and not the U.S. Constitution,” said Richard Lazarus, a professor at Harvard Law School.
Seeley ultimately rejected the state’s argument that the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions in Montana are insignificant, claiming that they are “a substantial factor” in global warming.
“Every additional ton of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions exacerbates plaintiffs’ injuries and risks locking in irreversible climate injuries,” Seeley wrote in her ruling. However, Seeley’s ruling ultimately leaves the final result in the hands of the Montana state legislature, which is dominated by Republicans who are unlikely to implement policies in favor of greater restrictions in the name of “global warming.”
“The ruling really provides nothing beyond emotional support for the many cases seeking to establish a public trust right, human right or a federal constitutional right” to a green environment, said James Huffman, dean emeritus at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.