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By Cari Kimball

June 6 marked the 50th anniversary of the ratification of Montana’s Constitution, and we’re taking a moment to reflect on some aspects of that historic document that have aged particularly well since 1972.

Clean & Healthful Environment (Article II, Section 3). “It’s your right, our mission!” It’s pretty special that Montanans have a constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment as an inalienable right. Only three other other states enjoy this; our 1972 Constitutional Convention delegates were ahead of their time. Many of you know that MEIC was crucial in “breathing life” into that right through a 1999 Montana Supreme court decision in our suit challenging the Seven-Up Pete Mine that threatened Montana’s beloved Blackfoot River. We lean on that right and the resulting legal decision (MEIC v. Montana DEQ) today and so do others. For example, the current Held v. Montana lawsuit challenges the failure of Montana’s government to address climate change as a violation of younger Montanans’ right to a clean and healthful environment. This is exactly the sort of use of MEIC v. Montana DEQ that we love to see — for the health and well-being of our communities to come before profits for corporate polluters.

Right to Know (Article II, Section 9). MEIC’s work for government accountability is impossible without transparency. One of our most recent applications of the “Right to Know” constitutional provision is over the Gianforte Administration’s failure to enforce the Bad Actor law against Phillips Baker of the Hecla Mining Co. Montana’s Bad Actor law was inspired by the Zortman-Landusky mining pollution that Baker’s former employer (Pegasus) created. At its most basic level, the law is this: mining companies and executives in Montana must clean up their pollution (or pay for that cleanup) before they mine in Montana again. Seems pretty reasonable, right? That’s why today, MEIC and our partners have sued the Gianforte Administration to get answers to some crucial questions. For example, why should a perpetual pollution creator such as Baker get off scot-free when other people have to follow the law? Something smells fishy, and it’s time to shine some disinfecting sunlight on the situation.

Right to Participate (Article II, Section 8). On (at least) a monthly basis, MEIC turns to our constitutional Right to Participate in decision-making at the state and local levels in our work. At any given moment, people across the state go to MEIC’s online action center to make their voices heard. We’ve asked Montanans to exercise their right to participate by urging the State to limit selenium pollution in our water and mercury pollution in our air, and to give communities the flexibility to adopt building codes that can significantly lower future lifetime carbon emissions in our homes and offices. During the legislative session, MEIC leans on our community of activists and rabble rousers (folks like you!) to participate by speaking up for Montana’s environment. 

Cheers to the Constitutional Convention delegates and Montana voters for bequeathing us these rights and the benefits we enjoy today because of them!


This article was published in the June 2022 issue of Down To Earth. 

Read the full issue here.


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