Montana GOP Slams Young People After Historic Climate Ruling

Montana Republicans responded to Monday’s ruling in a landmark climate case with statements painting the judge as an environmental “activist” and dismissing the 16 youth plaintiffs — their own constituents — as “pawns” and members of a “climate cult.”

It was a rather stunning reaction given that the case centered on a unique provision in Montana’s Constitution guaranteeing citizens the right to a “clean and healthful environment.” The plaintiffs, ages 5 to 22, argued during a seven-day trial in June that state agencies had violated this constitutional right by approving fossil fuel projects without considering climate impacts.

District Court Judge Kathy Seeley ultimately agreed. In her 103-page ruling, Seeley wrote that the plaintiffs “have proven that as children and youth, they are disproportionately harmed by fossil fuel pollution and climate impacts,” and that their “injuries will grow increasingly severe and irreversible without science-based actions to address climate change.”

One might expect Republicans to be outraged that the state’s government was found to have violated their constituents’ constitutional protections. Instead, they attacked both the young plaintiffs and the judge, and defended Montana’s polluting industries.

“Activist judges, even here in MT, are helping far-Left environmentalists push their green hallucination down the throats of Americans,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who has received more than $1.2 million in oil and gas industry donations over his career, wrote on social media. “Shutting down energy projects that support an all-of-the-above energy portfolio is setting America on a dangerous path. We must reverse course.”

Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) called the plaintiffs “pawns.”

“This is not a school project. It’s a courtroom,” he wrote. “Judge Seeley did a huge disservice to the courts and to these youths by allowing them to be used as pawns in the Left’s poorly thought-out plan to ruin our power grid and compromise our national security in the name of their Green New Fantasy.”

Emily Flower, a spokesperson for Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen (R), slammed the ruling as “absurd” and called the trial a “taxpayer-funded publicity stunt.”

“Montanans can’t be blamed for changing the climate,” Flower said in a statement. “Their same legal theory has been thrown out of federal court and courts in more than a dozen states. It should have been here as well, but they found an ideological judge who bent over backward to allow the case to move forward and earn herself a spot in their next documentary.”

Tim Sheehy, a Montana businessman who was recruited by Republicans to take on Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in 2024, extended his streak of toeing the party line.

“The latest example of a liberal activist judge trying to legislate radical Green New Deal disastrous policies from the bench,” Sheehy wrote on social media. “We must fight back and take a strong stand against the climate cult and their job-killing agenda.”

Sheehy is the founder of Bridger Aerospace, a Bozeman-based aerial firefighting business. Prior to launching his Senate bid, Sheehy’s company notably scrubbed language about “fighting on the front lines of climate change” from its website, as ABC News reported last month.

The Republican response to Monday’s ruling is the latest example of the party burying its head in the sand about the mounting impacts of climate change — extreme heat, wildfire, flooding and mass coral bleaching, to name a few — while working to increase production of planet-warming fossil fuels.

During the June trial, several youth plaintiffs testified about the many ways that fossil fuel-driven climate change has affected their lives and health, both physical and mental.

“Today’s ruling in Montana is a game-changer that marks a turning point in this generation’s efforts to save the planet from the devastating effects of human-caused climate chaos,” said Julia Olson, chief legal counsel and executive director of Our Children’s Trust, one of the legal organizations that represented plaintiffs in the case. “This is a huge win for Montana, for youth, for democracy and for our climate.”

The Montana attorney general’s office has promised to appeal the ruling.