Michael Hoyt

According to Kendall Cotton’s viewpoint (March 5, 2024, Missoulian), Monana courts are interfering with the ability of legislators to set policy.  He specifically referenced Held v. Montana.

Mr. Cotton seems to believe that the number of friend-of-the-court briefs filed in the State’s appeal to the Montana Supreme Court proves that the Circuit Court made a mistake when it ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.  His assertion that, if Held v. Montana is upheld by the Supreme Court, Montana’s economy will be devastated.   He maintains economics is reason enough for the Court to rule against upholding Montana’s Constitution by overturning the Circuit Courts finding.

Mr. Cotton stated, “Setting energy and environmental policy for the state involves important public policy decisions that should be debated and ultimately decided by the people’s representatives in the legislature.”

That statement is true, as far as it goes.  However, he neglects to mention that policy decisions enacted by the legislature must not run afoul of the Montana Constitution.  That is precisely what Held v. Montana was about and not, as he implies, freedoms or economic opportunities for individuals and corporations.

Montana’s Constitution reserves judicial power to the courts.  Our State’s court system is explicitly given the power to determine if laws are being followed and if those laws are in alignment with our Constitution.

In Held v. Montana, that is exactly what the Circuit Court did.  It determined that, when passing SB 557, the State Legislature has enacted legislation that is in direct conflict with the Montana Constitution which provides, “All persons are born free and have certain inalienable rights.  They include the right to a clean and healthful environment…” [see Mont. Const. Art. II, Sec. 3]  The Constitution further stipulates, “The state and each person shall maintain and improve clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations.” [see Mont. Const, Art. IX, Sec 1(1)]

Mr. Cotton’s contention that any specific action taken by the Montana government produces such a small amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Montana should not be held accountable for contributing to global warming.  The same could be claimed of actions taken by most persons, governments, or corporations.

Are we then to assume that because everyone is partially responsible, no one is responsible for dealing with the issue of global warming?  Surveys reveal that most people are in favor of requiring governments to take action.

It is the cumulative effect of multiple actions by multiple human actors that is causing the warming of the planet.  All actors are at fault, including Montana’s government.  Simply because Montana contributes a small portion of total GHG emissions is not a valid reason for not holding Montana’s government accountable, especially since our Constitution requires it.

It is particularly offensive that Mr. Cotton refers to the Held plaintiffs as “2-year-olds” and “children” who have feelings of “loss, despair, anxiety, fear of loss due to glaciers melting, or are losing sleep worrying about the fate of the pika.”

His condescending attitude toward citizens of Montana reveals that Mr. Cotton lacks any understanding of global warming and displays his lack of compassion.  His views represent the secretly funded Frontier Institute, a front for businesses and corporations that help elect and lobby government officials to support the continuation of resource extraction (without government oversight) from public lands that belong to all Montana citizens.

Rather than ignoring environmental realities and devastating public lands, the carpetbaggers in our state government and out-of-state corporations must respect Montana’s Constitution and leave policy making to Montana citizens who genuinely care about protecting the place we live.