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By Alex Miller, Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Montana State University’s annual Law Day again brought the state’s highest court to campus, this time to hear a case about a permit expanding mining operations in Rosebud County.

The Montana Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the appeal of a lawsuit between the Montana Environmental Information Center and Westmoreland Rosebud Mining Monday in a ballroom of the Strand Union Building.

A lawyer for MEIC argued that the case was the first opportunity to uphold the Montana Strip and Underground Mine Reclamation Act in order to prevent further pollution of East Fork Armells Creek near Colstrip.

Lawyers for DEQ and mining company argued that the expansion of mining operations, known as AM4, would continue the “status quo” of impairment to the waterway by extending its duration rather than adding to it.

MEIC sued over an amended permit in 2019 that allowed the expansion of the Rosebud Mine’s mining operations near Colstrip. A district court judge overturned the permit and required that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality evaluate the permit again in 2021, according to court documents.

“We’re here today because the DEQ and the Board (of Environmental Review) failed to uphold MSUMRA’s protections of our water,” said Shiloh Hernandez, a lawyer representing the conservation group.

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