Public Comment On DEQ Work Group Recommendations

Public Comment On DEQ Work Group Recommendations

"Providing clear definitions should be a primary focus of any MEPA reforms."

June 17th, 2024

Dear Members of MEPA Workgroup, 

I wanted to thank you for taking time to review MEPA concerns over the past months. The following are recommendations based upon the Final Draft of MEPA Work Group Recommendations.

1. Subtask Group: Climate Analysis Final Report

The fact is that often the biggest barrier climate-friendly projects face is uncertain outcomes resulting from the environmental permitting process. Applying a Social Cost of Carbon analysis or Scope Analysis to MEPA would NOT reduce emissions, NOR would it make it easier for environmentally friendly projects to get built. It would merely add another layer of uncertainty that would increase project delays and fuel litigation.

Furthermore, these highly controversial and easily manipulatable analyses would require Montana to defer to the federal government. We should NOT be ceding Montana’s authority to set our own climate policy to the federal government bureaucracy. We need to protect our own state’s sovereignty, not offer it up on a golden platter to DC bureaucrats.

It is incumbent upon DEQ to not implement reforms that cause our permitting process to decline even further into unpredictability. If any adjustments to what is analyzed are made, they must be narrowly focused on known impacts and not broad conjecture that will only fuel litigation.

2. Subtask Group: Process and Applicability Final Report

The Legislature has unequivocally clarified that MEPA is a procedural law. We support changes that would further clarify MEPA’s procedural nature. 

We specifically agree with the Key Strategies outlined in Initial Challenge #3. As noted by the Process and Applicability Subtask Group, definitions in the model rules, the MEPA statute, and administrative rules often differ or are absent entirely. Comprehensive steps should be taken to codify these definitions, clarify the required level of analysis, and streamline procedures where appropriate.

Furthermore, the absence of clear definitions and procedures under MEPA has pushed the courts to rely on NEPA definitions and case law. We should not be ceding Montana’s authority to govern to the Federal Government. While NEPA may provide greater clarity in some regards, Montana must not simply rely on Federal interpretations. Instead, when appropriate, Montana should take the clarifying aspects of NEPA and codify them into Montana law. This will enable Montana to act on the lessons learned at the federal level without carte blanche ceding our state’s sovereignty.

Providing clear definitions should be a primary focus of any MEPA reforms.

3. Overall Feedback:

Regardless of the reforms pursued, it is crucial that the DEQ maintain the separation of powers. Reforms should be driven by the legislature, the branch of government elected to represent the people of Montana and set state policy.

In Liberty,
Tanner Avery

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!