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Youth Climate Case

UP FROM THE EARTH Oil pumps operate in a wheat field in eastern Montana. WILLIAM CAMPBELL—CORBIS/GETTY IMAGES

Sixteen young people are suing the state of Montana. They say its support for fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas is driving climate change and ruining the environment. Held v. Montana is not the first youth climate case in the United States, but it’s the first to go to trial. That’s set to begin on June 12.

When the case was filed, in 2020, the kids ranged in age from 2 to 18. They and their lawyers are basing their argument on language from the Montana State Constitution. It says citizens have “the right to a clean and healthful environment.” The state is violating its own rule, the youths say.

Montana is the country’s fifth-largest coal producer and one of its top 20 oil producers. In 2011, state lawmakers changed state policy to increase fossil-fuel development. That policy was repealed in March. It’s unclear if this will affect the lawsuit. Governor Greg Gianforte has not commented on the case.

Lander Busse, 18, is one of the young people involved in the lawsuit. “Our mission right now is to make sure we’re holding our Montana government accountable for their violations of our state constitution,” he told the Helena Independent Record. “It’s sad that it’s falling on us, the youth, to do this, and not the adults.”

Stop and Think! Why did TIME for Kids choose this story for its Earth Day issue? What questions would you like to see answered in a follow-up article?