A diverse group of over 40 Montana organizations and businesses submitted a petition to the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) today to request that it adopt rules requiring consideration of climate change in its regulation of Montana gas and electric utilities. Montana courts have twice found that the state has an obligation to consider climate change in decision making. This petition asks the PSC to abide by Montanans’ Constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment which includes the right to a stable climate. With broad oversight authority over Montana utilities, the PSC makes decisions that can either promote or discourage continued utility investment in fossil-fuel infrastructure. Thus, the PSC has the most consequential role of any decision-making body in the state in determining Montana’s impact on the climate.

“PSC Commissioners take an oath to uphold our Montana State Constitution,” said Winona Rachel, Organizer with Families for a Livable Climate. “Montana families need them to do their job to protect both our wallets and our shared climate. Our courts have already ruled that our youth have a right to a clean and healthful environment. We owe it to ourselves and our children and grandchildren to ensure a livable future for the place we all call home.”

The PSC is an elected body charged with ensuring that utility customers have continued access to utility services that are affordable, reliable, and in the public interest. Five commissioners represent PSC districts across the state, serving as the last line of defense for protecting utility customers from monopoly utilities such as NorthWestern Energy, Montana’s largest energy utility. The PSC recently approved NorthWestern’s request to dramatically increase customers’ electricity bills and there is no end in sight. Montanans need more protection from profit-seeking and environmentally destructive utility decisions that could saddle them with higher utility bills and increase harm to the climate.

If the PSC fails to consider the economic and environmental consequences of climate change, NorthWestern customers will not only be forced to pay more for electricity, but will also endure further unaffordable and unconstitutional effects of a changing climate. Utility commissions in other states consider the climate crisis in their decision making. Montana can do so as well in a manner that protects consumers and the climate.

“After this summer’s historic ruling in the Held v. State of Montana youth climate trial, it is clear that all state agencies must act affirmatively to preserve and protect Montanans’ constitutional right to a healthy climate,” said Nick Fitzmaurice, Energy Transition Engineer with MEIC. “Burning fossil fuels for energy is the primary driver of our changing climate which is harming our environment and economy. As Montana’s regulator of monopoly utilities, the Public Service Commission is uniquely positioned to stifle climate impacts in the state and promote more affordable clean energy. It is the Commission’s constitutional mandate to fully consider climate impacts in its regulation of Montana utilities.”

The August 2023 ruling in the historic youth constitutional climate trial, Held v. State of Montana, declared that, under Art. II, Sec. 3 of the Montana Constitution, Montanans “have a fundamental constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment, which includes climate as part of the environmental life-support system.” (Held Order, p. 102, ¶ 7). The court also found that Art. IX, Sec. 1 of the Montana Constitution places “an affirmative duty upon the government to take active steps to realize this right.” (Held Order, p. 96, ¶ 45) Critically, the court determined that “Montana’s climate, environment, and natural resources are unconstitutionally degraded and depleted due to the current atmospheric concentration of GHGs and climate change.” (Held Order, p. 98, ¶ 50).

The Held decision addressed a Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) provision that prohibits state agencies from considering climate change. While the Montana legislature exempted the PSC from MEPA, the PSC’s constitutional obligation to maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment for present and future generations is clear.

“As young people, our only hope for a safe future where we thrive, raise children, play, dream, work, and create is in protecting a stable climate,” said Eva Molina, a volunteer member with Gallatin Valley Sunrise. “When those who claim to represent us fail to consider this life-dependent interest, we are devastated. The PSC is meant to protect their constituents. They must defend our right to a healthy environment in every decision they make.”

Under the Montana Administrative Procedure Act, Montanans have the right to petition state agencies requesting them to adopt new administrative rules. This rulemaking petition asks the PSC to include consideration of the economic, social, and environmental implications its regulatory decisions have on the climate.

Quotes from signing organizations and businesses:

“If we care about our health, our youth, and our future, and about legal obligations due to the legal ruling in the Held v MT case in 2023, the PSC must consider climate costs in their actions. The PSC is here to protect Montanans.” said Lori Byron, Montana Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate,  “Climate is the greatest preventable threat to human health in the 21st century.” Lori Byron, MD, Montana Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate, 406-671-5824

“Droughts, floods, lost snowpack, extreme storms, and other natural disasters are becoming more frequent and more intense due to climate pollution. These impacts harm the livelihoods of our farmers, ranchers, and hunting and fishing guides, threatening the very foundation of Montana’s culture which we all love and hope to steward for future generations,” said Edward Barta, chair of Northern Plains Resource Council. “The PSC has a responsibility to uphold our constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment, just as it has a mandate to protect Montanans from financial harm by energy utility corporations like NorthWestern Energy who continually seek to abuse their monopoly status. Considering climate change must be part of commissioners’ oversight on both counts.”

“Recognizing the threat climate pollution poses to our community and the harms we are already experiencing, Missoula established a goal of 100% clean electricity by 2030, consistent with the science and urgency the crisis demands,” said Abby Huseth, deputy director of Climate Smart Missoula. “But to achieve this goal, the Public Service Commission must do their job and ensure a level playing field for clean, renewable energy.”

“It shouldn’t fall to young people to hold the State of Montana accountable for preserving the livability of the only home they will ever have,” says David Merrill, senior field organizer for the Sierra Club Montana Chapter. “Climate change is a menace to their future and the Montana they love. Can there be any more fundamental obligation than passing on to them a planet that is livable if not improved? The ruling in Held v. MT is a solid advance in addressing the greatest threat Montana has ever faced. It should be celebrated.”

“As people of faith, Helena Interfaith Climate Advocates ask the Public Service Commission to consider the damaging impacts of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions in its regulatory decisions. The PSC must protect Montanans from the harm of pollution and global warming.” –  Dave Hemion, Helena Interfaith Climate Advocates

“If members of the PSC truly value what makes Montana, Montana, they will act on climate. Hunters, anglers, and all who spend time out-of-doors in Montana are experiencing first-hand the impacts of the declining snowpack, the drier seasons, disruptions to wildlife migration, the increasing severity of wildfires, and wildfire smoke. Anyone in a position to do something to acknowledge, plan, and adapt to these impacts has a moral imperative to act on behalf of this and future generations,” said Frank Szollosi, Executive Director of the Montana Wildlife Federation.


Isabel Shaida, Gallatin Valley Sunrise, 914-441-6110,

Winona Rachel, Families for a Livable Climate, 952-200-9888,

Nick Fitzmaurice, MEIC, 406-443-2520 x 007,

Legal Counsel Contacts:

Jenny Harbine, Earthjustice, 406-223-7781,

Barbara Chillcott, Western Environmental Law Center, 406-430-3023,

Melissa Hornbein, Western Environmental Law Center,

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