Montana Environmental Information Center v. Department of Environmental Quality
Montana Supreme Court
296 Mont. 207, 988 P.2d 1236 (1999)
In 1995, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) (defendant) amended a mining company’s license to allow the mining company to discharge water containing high levels of arsenic into two rivers. The DEQ made this amendment without engaging in nondegradation review. Under Montana law, nondegradation review is required before authorizing degradation of high-quality waters and generally must show that the degradation is necessary and that the benefits outweigh the costs. However, in 1995, the Montana legislature added an exemption to nondegradation review for discharges from water-well or monitoring-well tests, which the DEQ applied in this case. The Montana Environmental Information Center and other advocacy groups (collectively, the advocacy groups) (plaintiffs) brought suit. The advocacy groups argued that the blanket exemption was unconstitutional under the Montana Constitution, which provides for the right to a clean and healthful environment and requires the state to maintain the environment and prevent unreasonable depletion and degradation of natural resources. The advocacy groups contended that the court should apply strict scrutiny to the 1995 amendment. The district court sided with the DEQ and found no infringement of a constitutional right because the advocacy groups did not demonstrate actual danger to human or environmental health. The advocacy groups appealed, arguing that the Montana Constitution was intended to prevent harm, not simply redress the harm after the fact.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Trieweiler, J.)
Concurrence (Leaphart, J.)
Concurrence (Leaphart, J.)
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