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First U.S. Kids’ Climate Lawsuit Heads to Trial

Sixteen young people are about to make history.

The first youth-led climate case to go to trial in the United States starts next week in Helena, Mont., where plaintiffs are accusing state officials of violating their right to a stable climate by rubber-stamping coal, oil and gas projects.

Even if the case does little to stop Montana from using its huge coal reserves, the case could influence U.S. policy by bolstering climate fights elsewhere, writes Lesley Clark.

“To have the ability to go to trial and submit evidence that the advancement of fossil fuels has an effect on the climate and warming … that’s a pretty tremendous thing,” Sandra Zellmer, a law professor at the University of Montana, told Lesley.

“It’s monumental that this is getting to trial in a state like Montana.”

Montana’s usable coal reserves, the largest in the nation, account for about 30 percent of the country’s total. The state also contributes about one in every 200 barrels of U.S. oil produced annually. Montana has never denied a permit for a fossil fuel project, Lesley writes.

A clean and healthful environment: The group of young people accuses Montana of violating the state’s 1972 Constitution, which provides a right to a “clean and healthful environment.”

State officials have vigorously rejected the accusation. Republican Attorney General Austin Knudsen unsuccessfully petitioned the Montana Supreme Court to dismiss the case. State Senate Majority Leader Steve Fitzpatrick, also a Republican, called the lawsuit a “waste of time.”

“We support natural resources in this state,” Fitzpatrick said, “but the Legislature is certainly not going to adopt the ideology of the environmental movement.”

Kid trendsetters: The 16 plaintiffs in Montana are seeing the inside of a courtroom well before another case, Juliana v. United States, which makes similar accusations against the federal government. That complaint by 21 young activists was dismissed in 2020, but a judge in Oregon ruled last week that the plaintiffs can amend their complaint to revive the case.

The Montana suit builds on a global trend.

In Colombia, for example, 25 young people won a lawsuit in 2018 against their government for failing to protect their rights to a safe environment. A German court ruled in favor of youth plaintiffs in 2021, finding that the country’s climate law did not go far enough

A coal dilemma
Pennsylvania isn’t part of a regional program to slash carbon emissions, but its coal plants are closing anyway — fueling a debate about the energy-producing state’s future, writes Miranda Willson.

Joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue for the state. But critics say it would harm electric reliability and raise energy costs.

Debt ceiling fallout
Agencies responsible for tackling climate change and building energy infrastructure may escape a lapse in funding this year, thanks to provisions tucked inside the recently passed bipartisan bill preventing a national default, writes Kevin Bogardus.

At the same time, this week’s revolt by House Republican hard-liners that shut down floor action could complicate spending levels at agencies.

Greta graduates
Greta Thunberg went on a school strike for the climate for the last time Friday, nearly five years after first sitting down in front of Sweden’s parliament with a hand-drawn sign, writes Zia Weise.

The Swedish activist wrote on Twitter that Friday was her graduation day, “which means I’ll no longer be able to school strike for the climate.” But the movement isn’t done, she added.

Growing damage to property and people from rising temperatures is expected to jack up federal spending, while economic activity is being eroded in sectors like agriculture and manufacturing.

The Energy Department will provide an $850 million loan to KORE Power for the construction of an advanced battery cell manufacturing facility in Arizona to boost supply chains.

General Motors has joined Ford in adopting Tesla’s electric vehicles charging standard, jeopardizing the fate of $7.5 billion in federal funding for EV infrastructure.

Source : Politico