MEIC is known throughout Montana and the West as a strong advocate for a clean and healthful environment that backs advocacy with hard science and thorough research. We have been called “perhaps the most influential and active environmental organization in the state” and for good reason. For almost 50 years, MEIC has fought for policies that will affect the Montana environment for generations to come. Below is a list of MEIC’s biggest accomplishments, but does not include the full breadth of our work and success.
At the Legislature
MEIC is the lead voice for the environment at the Montana Legislature. We have played a role in lobbying to establish, protect, and strengthen almost every environmental law on the books, including but not limited to the Montana Environmental Policy Act, the Subdivision and Platting Act, the Major Facility Siting Act, the Strip and Underground Mine Reclamation Act, the Voluntary Conservation Easements Act, the Coal Severance Tax Trust Fund, the Metal Mine Reclamation Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Clean-up and Responsibility Act, the Mega Landfill Siting Act, the Water Use Act, and the Renewable Energy Standard. MEIC has also played a lead role in defeating hundreds of anti-environmental bills that are not listed his.
Victories at a Glance
- After nearly a decade of advocacy, litigation, and working with partners, the Smith River is one step closer to protection from a damaging copper mine on its headwaters after an April 2022 decision by a Montana state judge.
- MEIC won a lawsuit that found the Rosebud coal mine expansion was illegal due to damage to Colstrip area waters, wildlife, and the climate.
- With three new staff positions, MEIC has expanded its capacity for movement building, working on land use issues, and helping raise public awareness of Montana’s largest contributors to the climate crisis.
- Two Bull Mountain coal mine legal victories have, so far, prevented more than 190 million tons of greenhouse gasses from entering the atmosphere.
- With urging from MEIC’s members and supporters, the State of Montana adopted new, more energy efficient building codes in June 2022, which will reduce carbon emissions in new buildings and enable cities and counties to implement net-zero and solar-ready building zones.
- A district court decision in April 2022 requires NorthWestern Energy to pay $2.5 million in fines to Montana’s Low-Income Energy Assistance Program due to its failure to purchase energy from Community Renewable Energy Projects (CREPs).
- A legal victory prevented a large expansion at the Spring Creek coal mine on the basis that the operator didn’t sufficiently consider emissions such as CO2 and mercury.
- MEIC and partners stopped the proposed Rock Creek mine in the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness due to impacts to bull trout and grizzly bears.
- MEIC stopped dozens of anti-environment and anti-public health measures at the Montana legislature by helping Montanans contact legislators over 46,000 times through an updated website.
- MEIC and partners defeated a last minute Trump-era rule designed to prevent consideration of science in public health and environmental decision-making.
- MEIC secured a PSC decision preventing NorthWestern Energy from charging approximately $10 million to customers for costs associated with a prolonged outage at the Colstrip coal-fired power plant.
- MEIC secured a PSC decision preventing NorthWestern Energy from purchasing a larger share of the Colstrip coal-fired power plant.
- MEIC and Earthjustice receive favorable Montana Supreme Court order upholding the vacature of the proposed Montanore mine project’s discharge permit in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.
- MEIC and partners win a federal court challenge reinstating a Bureau of Land Management methane waste rule that the Trump administration attempted to dismantle.
- MEIC wins a U.S. District Court challenge that results in the cancellation of oil and gas leases on over 145,000 acres of public land in Montana due to potential water quality and climate impacts.
- MEIC wins a Supreme Court victory striking down Montana Public Service Commission decisions that intentionally undermined renewable energy projects by weakening contract terms.
- Colstrip Units 1&2 permanently close in response to economic pressure combined with MEIC’s legal settlement requiring closure by 2022.
- MEIC leads a successful legislative lobbying effort in defeating dozens of anti-environmental bills and blocking multiple proposals to bail out NorthWestern Energy and its investment in Colstrip.
- MEIC wins two major Montana District court challenges against mines that would impact water quality and quantity in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.
- MEIC wins a court case against Montana Public Service Commission restoring favorable contract lengths for renewable energy projects.
- MEIC blocks an expansion of the Spring Creek coal mine by arguing climate change impacts must be evaluated alongside the mine’s economic benefits.
- MEIC wins lawsuit requiring enforcement of the Bureau of Land Management Methane Waste Rule without delay.
- MEIC won a lawsuit stopping BLM from allowing coal mining and drilling on over 15 million acres.
- MEIC wins a lawsuit preventing expansion of Signal Peak Energy’s Bull Mountain Coal Mine due to lack of a climate change impact evaluation.
- Reached Historic Settlement with Colstrip Owners, Units 1 & 2 to Close by 2022
- Victory for The Bitterroot! MEIC Won State District Court Appeal, and Wastewater Permit for Bitterroot Valley’s Grantsdale Subdivision rejected
- State district court rules in MEIC’s favor and revokes a water pollution discharge permit for the Rosebud Mine
- MEIC, Tongue River ranchers, Northern Cheyenne tribal members, and other activists, won a decades-long battle to stop the Tongue River Railroad and the massive Otter Creek coal mine.
- Montana Public Service Commission ruled in MEIC’s favor regarding NorthWestern Energy’s cost recovery for Colstrip Unit 4 outage, returning 8 million dollars to consumers.
- Board of Environmental Review (BER) unanimously ruled in MEIC’s favor and repeals permit for Bull Mountain Mine Expansion, the state’s only underground coal mine.
- Court ruled in MEIC’s favor and protects grizzly bear habitat on state lands in NW Montana.
- EPA releases the Clean Power Plan, requiring Montana to reduce emissions by 47% by 2030.
- MEIC won lawsuit requiring the U.S. EPA to regulate coal ash, the second largest unregulated waste stream in the U.S.
- MEIC is instrumental in convincing WA regulators to limit further investments in Colstrip.
- MEIC wins a lawsuit that stopped the hauling of “mega-loads” of tar sands mining equipment over Lolo Pass and along the Blackfoot River and Rocky Mountain Front.
- MEIC leads the successful campaign to stop the proposed Roundup coal-fired power plant.
- MEIC forms a coalition that successfully lobbies the legislature to adopt the Montana Renewable Energy Standard.
- Initiative 147, which would have repealed I-137, is defeated by the voters.
- MEIC keeps Holcim Cement Co. from burning tires, smelter slag, and hazardous waste.
- MEIC wins a lawsuit that stops the construction of a sprawl-inducing Forestvale interstate highway interchange in the Helena valley.
- MEIC wins a lawsuit in which the Montana Supreme Court declares the constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment to be fundamental.
- Preserved the Rocky Mountain Front, protecting 405,000 acres of national forest land along the Rocky Mountain Front from mineral exploration and development for the next twenty years.
- MEIC successfully lobbies the Montana state legislature to adopt a net-metering program for NorthWestern Energy customers who want to rely on small scale renewable energy systems.
- Initiative 137, written and sponsored by MEIC, is passed by the voters, banning new cyanide heap-leach mines and stopping Canyon Resources’ 7-Up Pete mine on the Blackfoot River.
- Pegasus Gold Co. is fined $37 million for violations at the Zortman/Landusky mines and files for bankruptcy.
- MEIC wins a lawsuit that ended the confidentiality of legislative bill draft files.
- MEIC wins the first of three lawsuits over the reclamation of the Golden Sunlight mine.
- MEIC wins a lawsuit that stopped CENEX from drilling for oil on the North Fork of the Flathead River.
- Sunshine Mining Co. abandons plans for a gold mine west of Lincoln.
- A phosphate detergent ban is passed by the Legislature.
- MEIC wins a lawsuit that stopped the Montana Power Co. from building the Haines Pipeline along the Rocky Mountain Front.
- Air quality standards are adopted by the Board of Health and Environmental Sciences.
- Coal severance tax raised to 30% by the Legislature.