By Tom Lutey, Billings Gazette
Just weeks old, new Montana laws intended to clear legal challenges to coal mining have landed in court.
At issue are two laws passed by the Montana Legislature this spring, one that allows violations of water quality standards, a second that allows mining companies to collect legal fees from people challenging state permits. The Department of Environmental Quality, Director Christopher Dorrington and Mine Bureau Chief Dan Walsh are named as defendants.
The lawsuit is just the latest of a half-dozen legal challenges to laws passed recently by the Montana Legislature, as lawmakers adopted a “let the courts figure it out” approach to law making and Gov. Greg Gianforte requested $2.6 million to pay for defending lawmakers’ work.
Conservation groups challenging the mining laws have asked a U.S. District Court justice in Great Falls to prevent the Montana Department of Environmental Quality from using its new powers until the laws are reviewed by federal agencies and the public. The plaintiffs are Citizens for Clean Energy, Montana Environmental Information Center, Sierra Club and Wildearth Guardians.