When Yellowstone County District Court Judge Jessica Fehr asked assistant county attorney Levi Robison where residents who object to the Laurel Generation Station methane-fired power plant could lodge complaints, he answered, “Neither the city nor the county had the authority.”

That was – and remains – the crux of the problem that brought the matter to court, along with four different parties, on Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, the power plant, one of the largest permitted in the past decade, is nearing completion within the shadow of CHS Refinery and next to the Yellowstone River near Laurel.

In the case, nearby residents, Northern Plains Resource Council, and the Montana Environmental Information Center sued the city of Laurel, Yellowstone County, and NorthWestern Energy over the gas plant. The plaintiffs allege the defendants bypassed their constitutionally protected right to participate in government decisions in allowing the gas plant to be built.