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By Scott Dance, The Washington Post


Montana is the land of big skies, glaciers and fly-fishing — where natural beauty is so important, the state imposed a constitutional right to a clean environment. But it also boasts the country’s largest recoverable coal reserves, which are critical to its economy, making it one of the most intense climate battlegrounds in the country.

This month, Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed a law barring the state from calculating the climate impacts of major projects. At the same time, a state judge has ruled that a first-of-its-kind lawsuit testing whether Montana’s constitution requires the state to combat climate change will go to trial next month.

They are signs that America’s larger climate conflict — the shift away from fossil fuels and the boom in renewable energy — has made its way to Montana. Its coal industry is already facing head winds, as Washington and Oregon will soon cut off imports of carbon-intensive power from their neighbor.

Montana, with deep attachments to both the environment and fossil fuels, remains torn.

“We’re a weird state,” said Anne Hedges, co-director of the Montana Environmental Information Center, an environmental advocacy group. “We have this right, but we also have more coal than anybody else in the Lower 48.”


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