SB 53 by Senator Jeff Welborn (R-Dillon) would amend the hardrock mining act to change the permitting process for decorative rock quarries. While certain aspects of the bill are positive changes, because they would free up resources at the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) so that the agency can focus on other permitting decisions, the bill exempts rock quarries below 15 acres from having to conduct an environmental analysis under the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA). MEPA analysis is critical to insuring that the public is notified and involved in decisions affecting our environment, and assuring that alternative permitting decisions are considered.
SB 53 was passed by the Senate and transferred to the House. The House Natural Resources Committee passed the bill, and it is now awaiting a debate and vote on the House floor.
Derf Johnson, djohnson[at]meic.org