By Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press
On a party-line vote, the House Natural Resources Committee advanced a measure seeking to exempt mines and power plants from Montana Environmental Policy Act review.
Along a party-line vote, the House Natural Resources Committee advanced a controversial 11th-hour bill that seeks to change how power plants and mines are permitted in Montana. Despite limited notice for the hearing, the House Natural Resources Committee meeting Monday night was packed with commenters, most of whom opposed the bill.
House Bill 971 seeks to prevent the Montana Department of Environmental Quality from analyzing power plant and mining projects with the Montana Environmental Policy Act, the five-decades-old, “look-before-you-leap” law that implements environmental protections included in the 1972 Montana Constitution. If HB 971 passes, DEQ would be directed to evaluate large projects with more focused laws such as the Clean Air Act, the Metal Mine Reclamation Act and the Opencut Mining Act.