By Alanna Madden, Courthouse News Service
Environmental groups say Montana’s House Bill 576 and Senate Bill 392 flout federal regulations to protect the environment and punish citizens who challenge mining permits in good faith.
(CN) — Environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday to halt Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality from enforcing two recent laws that amend the state’s federally approved program for regulating coal mining.
The lawsuit led by Montana Environmental Information Center challenges the legality of the department’s ability to enforce House Bill 576 and Senate Bill 392, two laws the plaintiffs claim violate the Montana Strip and Underground Mine Reclamation Act under the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977.
The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act regulates the environmental effects of coal mining by requiring states to develop and administer regulatory programs to meet federal standards. Consistent with said law, Montana’s regulatory policy administers several provisions to protect the environment from degradation — one of which requires mining permit applications to determine whether a project would violate the state’s water quality standards.