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By Keila Szpaller, Daily Montanan

If you don’t think a state agency did a good job on an environmental review, you might go to court and ask for a better look.

If Senate Bill 557 becomes law, you’ll have to prove that you can pony up money first.

“The court is the one place where you get a level playing field, but what this bill does is it makes it pay to play,” said Anne Hedges, with the Montana Environmental Information Center.

In 1971, the Montana Environmental Policy Act was adopted to guide the way the state handles human activities that affect the environment, according to a citizens’ guide to MEPA.

The Montana Constitution protects people’s right to a clean and healthful environment, and MEPA requires state agencies to analyze the effects of projects on things like fish, wildlife, water and agriculture, for example.

MEPA also “significantly expanded the public right to participate in the decisions of government,” the guide said.

Tuesday, the Senate passed SB 557 on a 30-20 vote on third reading and sent it to the House for consideration.

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