HELENA, Mont. (NewsNation) — Young environmental activists scored what experts described as a ground-breaking legal victory Monday when a Montana judge said state agencies were violating their constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment by allowing fossil fuel development.
The ruling in this first-of-its-kind trial in the U.S. adds to a small number of legal decisions around the world that have established a government duty to protect citizens from climate change.
If it stands, the ruling could set an important legal precedent, though experts said the immediate impacts are limited and state officials pledged to seek to overturn the decision on appeal.
David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor, told NewsNation the ruling is historic.
“This certainly can be seen as a step for other judges and other similar states, where like acts have been passed to take the same sort of action at the request of people who were affected by the environment,” Weinstein said.
Only a few states, including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York, have constitutions with similar environmental protections.
“I definitely think it’s going to set a precedent and it is going to empower more people to bring cases like this in their own state at the state level. what’s important and what remains to be seen is whether or not the judge will issue a stay,” Weinstein said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.