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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana Attorney General Joins Lawsuit Against 'Clean Power Plan'

Coal with the town of Colstrip in the background
Amy Martin

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox today joined the state to a lawsuit to stop President Obama’s plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

"It does not really have anything to do with whether this is wise policy, it has to do with whether it violates the rule of law, the individual states’ sovereignty," Fox said.

Twenty-three other states and a coal company are also plaintiffs in the suit.

A statement issued by Governor Steve Bullock didn’t say whether he thinks the lawsuit is a good idea.

“The rule has been challenged and the courts will sort that out,” Bullock said, adding, “Ultimately though, Montana faces a choice: we can write our own plan or the federal government will write it for us.”

Governor Bullock was in favor of initial White House goals for carbon dioxide emissions for Montana, but when new, tougher thresholds were announced in August he said he was quote, “extremely disappointed … the Obama administration moved the goalposts on us.”

At least three Montana groups are criticizing Attorney General Tim Fox for joining the lawsuit against the EPA’s plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The Northern Plains Resource Council and the Montana chapters of the American Lung Association and National Wildlife Federation today said Fox is wrong to make Montana one of 24 states suing to overturn the new proposed limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

David Ditloff, the Wildlife Federation’s regional representative in Montana says climate change is already negatively affecting the environment here.

"We saw it with the hoot owl closures on more than 20 streams at more than one point in time this summer, the forest fires, drought, hurt tourism, and on and on and on."

The EPA’s so-called “Clean Power Plan” sets a target for Montana to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 47 percent by 2030.

Montana’s Republican representatives in Congress praised Republican Attorney General Fox’s lawsuit against the plan. Democratic Senator Jon Tester issued a statement, saying, “... he will continue to get feedback from Montanans about its effects.”

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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