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Montana high court defers to agency on coal mine pollution

September 10, 2019

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s Supreme Court has reversed a lower-court ruling that struck down a water pollution permit for a large coal mine near Colstrip.

District Judge Kathy Seeley in 2016 ordered the state Department of Environmental Quality to reconsider the permit for the Rosebud strip mine, which fuels the nearby Colstrip power plant. She said regulators showed errors of judgment in allowing reduced monitoring of pollution into some waterways.

Tuesday’s unanimous ruling written by Chief Justice Mike McGrath says regulators have the flexibility to allow pollutants to be released into ditches that run dry for the majority of the year.

Justices sent the case back to Seeley to conduct a hearing over whether the DEQ properly exercised its judgment before she makes a ruling on the permit.

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