Frontier Institute Amicus Brief Filed in Held v. Montana Case

Frontier Institute Amicus Brief Filed in Held v. Montana Case

Statements from Frontier Institute and Co-Signers

February 20th, 2024

Frontier Institute Amicus Brief Filed in Held v. Montana

HELENA, Mont. – Montana’s Frontier Institute, joined by a diverse group of organizations and industry leaders, has filed an amicus brief in the Held v. Montana case now before the Montana Supreme Court.

A landmark 2023 Montana district court ruling in the Held v. Montana case struck down two recent changes to state environmental permitting laws and determined that 16 youths were injured by the state’s contribution to global climate change, and therefore had standing to sue the state. This decision was a first-of-its-kind ruling in a nationwide campaign of similar “children’s suits” over climate policy and against energy development. The state of Montana has appealed the decision to the Montana Supreme Court.

Frontier Institute’s brief was joined by the following co-signers:

– Montana Mining Association
– Montana Coal Council
– United Property Owners of Montana
– Montana Association of Oil, Gas, and Coal Counties
– Montana Taxpayers Association
– Westmoreland Mining LLC
– The Buckeye Institute

“Upholding the Held v. Montana decision could unleash endless litigation on nearly all economic activity in Montana, providing the ultimate veto authority to radical groups determined to stop our most critical projects. We and our co-signers believe this has serious implications for the rule of law and future economic prosperity,” said Kendall Cotton, President & CEO of Frontier Institute. “The real question raised by this case is what role the courts should play in developing public policies to address global climate change. The answer is none. These important public policy decisions should be made only by the people’s elected representatives in the political branches of government.”

Leaders from co-signing organizations also provided statements highlighting their concerns about impacts to Montana jobs, the economy, and even tax revenues:

“If the Held decision is allowed to stand it will have a lasting negative impact on local communities across our state,” said Richard Dunbar, President of the Montana Association of Oil, Gas, and Coal Counties“The Held decision not only sets a dangerous precedent of inserting the courts into the policy process, but it will cripple Montana’s economy, bring critical projects across the state to a grinding halt, and jeopardize the jobs of people across our state. It is critical to the future of our economy that this decision be struck down.”

“We are concerned that limiting the establishment of major industrial facilities, due to possible requirements of the Held decision, harms Montana’s economy in many ways,” said Bob Story, Executive Director of the Montana Taxpayers Association. “Our specific concern is that the decision may jeopardize new industries that will bring new tax revenue that would decrease the tax load on existing property tax payers, mainly homeowners, but also other businesses whose property tax revenues are in excess of the cost of providing them services. Business and industrial properties also provide jobs which contribute to Montana’s income tax collections that fund a wide variety of services.”

“Affordable energy is the bedrock of economic growth. Nowhere is this more true than in the agricultural world. Cutting Montanans off from the productive use of our natural resources slows economic growth, makes our state poorer, which in the long run results in worse outcomes for our environment,” said Chuck Denowh, Executive Director of United Property Owners of Montana.

“The Montana Coal Council agrees that the Held case fundamentally lacks standing because of a lack of causation and redressability in the plaintiffs’ claimed injuries. Furthermore, the verdict directly undermines the separation of powers as the Judiciary is attempting to set policy, a power reserved to the Legislature. Any policy set by the State must be holistic, recognizing technological limitations and economic viability, versus chasing “too good to be true” solutions, underpinned by arbitrary and unrealistic mandates,” said George Harris, Executive Director of the Montana Coal Council.

“There simply is no judicial body capable of adjudicating the multifarious issues raised by global climate change, and there is no court that can bind the international community to its decisions,” said Andrew M. Grossman, a senior legal fellow at The Buckeye Institute and a partner in BakerHostetler’s Washington, D.C., office.

“Echoing Justice Benjamin Cardozo’s belief that fairness and impartiality must guide judicial actions, we urge the Montana Supreme Court in the Held case to prioritize the rule of law and limit their role in the policy-making process. For companies like Westmoreland, investing significantly in projects requires legal and business certainty to ensure both project success and environmental restoration. Unfortunately, recent legal unpredictability in Montana hampers economic growth. Adhering to Cardozo’s wisdom is essential for collaborative, democratic, and predictable solutions to national and state energy and supply chain challenges we face today,” said Jon P. Heroux, Corporate Counsel for External Affairs, Westmoreland Mining LLC

You can read the full brief HERE

Frontier Institute’s brief emphasizes 2 key points:

  • The issue of standing: We address the lack of causation and redressability based on the tenuous connection between the relief sought by the plaintiffs and the injury they claim. The plaintiffs’ injuries are conjectural because it depends on many intervening events and assumptions and does not consider the benefits of abundant, reliable, affordable energy.
  • The Separation of Powers: Standing doctrine is especially salient in a case like Held v Montana which involves questions of public policy affecting the public at large and balancing incommensurate interests. It is the requirement of standing that enforces the separation of powers between the branches and ensures that this sort of inherently political question is left to the political branches.

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Founded in 2020, Frontier Institute is a think tank based in Helena, MT dedicated to keeping Montanans free to build, create, and innovate.

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