MISSOULA — In August, a judge ruled in favor of a group of youth who challenged the state of Montana claiming the state had not upheld its constitutional obligation for a clean and healthful environment.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) was then told to assess projects for greenhouse gas emissions and is now holding listening sessions on Montana's Environmental Policy Act (MEPA).
The agnecy says this is their way of hearing suggestions and feedback from Montanans on how they should implement the act. However, some believe the sessions are a delay tactic meant to postpone reviews of major projects throughout Montana.
That was the reasoning behind a rally that was held on Oct. 19, 2023, before the DEQ's public listening session in Missoula.
“I’m here because I’m very concerned that time is running out to address the climate chaos,” Peggy Schmidt said. “Kids deserve to have a future and a beautiful world to live in."
Schmidt was elated with the decision from the historic Held vs. Montana case and was eager to see things change in the state's environmental policy.
“A couple dozen kids, Held vs the state of Montana, they sued to try and get DEQ to consider climate and they won," Schmidt said. "It was awesome. But then DEQ has been dragging their feet.”
Alysha Goheen, a mother of two, said that she and her kids were inspired by the Held trial.
“It’s incredibly important because these young people have stood up for all of our futures. I’m here tonight to stand up for my kids’ futures, all the children, and all the future people in Montana and around the world who will need a livable climate.”
Many of those who attended the rally said they wanted the DEQ to act immediately instead of hosting listening sessions.
Schmidt thinks the DEQ is stalling, “I think they’re doing it to be able to say, ‘We're listening to the public! We’re taking their concerns into account'."
Goheen said the listening sessions are only valuable if they are followed by action.
She wants the message that climate needs to be addressed in project planning to be taken seriously saying, “It needs to go towards action.”