Associate Press copy is provided via The Canadian Press
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s Supreme Court has rejected an attempt by the state’s Republican governor to block a landmark climate ruling that said regulators must consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions when issuing permits for fossil fuel development.
Justices, in a 5-2 Tuesday decision, declined the request from Gov. Greg Gianforte and three state agencies to block the August ruling from District Court Judge Kathy Seeley while an appeal by the state is pending before the high court. Seeley ruled a state law that prohibited agencies from considering the effect of emissions runs afoul of the state constitution’s requirement “to maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment.”
Seeley already rejected an earlier challenge by the state, saying it failed to identify flaws in her findings nor any irreparable harm if the ruling took effect.
The justices in the majority said Seeley “did not act arbitrarily” in rejecting the state’s motion. Two justices said they would have granted the request to stay the ruling.
The state high court ruling means Montana officials must “immediately comply” with Seeley’s order pending the appeal, said Mark Bellinger, an attorney for Our Children’s Trust, which represented the 16 young plaintiffs who brought the case.
Director Chris Dorrington of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality said in a Wednesday statement that he was disappointed in the court’s ruling but declined to say whether the agency would analyze the effects of greenhouse gas emissions when evaluating permit applications. He argued the agency should have been granted more time to respond to Seeley’s ruling.
“We’re committed to getting this right for Montana and avoiding additional costly litigation while we work toward a solution,” Dorrington said.
The agency is in the process of updating the Montana Environmental Policy Act, which has prohibited officials from analyzing greenhouse gas emissions since the law was revised by state lawmakers in 2023, in a move seen as benefiting a natural gas power plant being built by NorthWestern Energy.
Seeley said in her ruling it would be up to the Montana Legislature to determine how to bring the state’s policies into compliance — dimming the chances for prompt changes in a fossil fuel-friendly state where Republicans dominate the statehouse. However, the ruling provides precedent for legal challenges.
The young plaintiffs in the climate case in November submitted a brief in support of a case filed by two environmental groups that are challenging the utility’s plant along the banks of the Yellowstone River near Laurel. They argued the plant’s air quality permit should be declared invalid or at least suspended until the state’s appeal of Seeley’s ruling is decided.
It’s unclear how long the appeal might take. The state’s opening brief is due by Feb. 13, pending any extensions that might be granted.
The young plaintiffs who challenged the state environmental policy testified they were already feeling the consequences of climate change, with smoke from worsening wildfires choking the air they breathe, along with decreased snowpack and drought drying rivers that sustain agriculture, fish, wildlife and recreation.
Attorneys for the state argued that the volume of greenhouse gasses released from Montana fossil fuel projects was insignificant compared to global emissions and reducing them would have no effect on the climate.
Carbon dioxide, which is released when fossil fuels are burned, traps heat in the atmosphere and is largely responsible for the warming of the climate.
The earth shattered a global heat record in 2023, the European climate agency said earlier this month.
The Department of Environmental Quality has created a work group to discuss potential changes to how it uses the Montana Environmental Policy Act, which requires public input in fossil fuel and mining development. Last year’s amendment by lawmakers forbid greenhouse gas emission analyses unless the federal government decided to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The work group’s first meeting is next Monday.
- 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_300062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
- 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
- 0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
- 0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
- 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
- 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
- 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
- 0015 Latus Viro0015 Latus Viro
- 0052 Predator Inspections0052 Predator Inspections
- 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
- 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
- 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
- 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
- 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
- 0022 Grimes winter hiring
- 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
- 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
- 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
- 0006 JK Junior