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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

State working group debates over how to assess greenhouse gas emissions

In August, a district court ruled DEQ must factor in climate impacts and greenhouse gas emissions while evaluating projects under the Montana Environmental Policy Act, or MEPA. The ruling came from the youth-led climate case Held v. Montana.

A working group tasked with reworking MEPA has published draft recommendations. But members disagree over how to conduct climate analyses.

Gordon Criswell from Talen Energy which operates Colstrip says agencies should only analyze a project’s direct greenhouse gas emissions.

"I believe indirect effects are difficult to quantify and are likely to result in double counting of emissions."

Other members say the group's recommendations don’t fairly balance the economic benefits of a proposed project with its contributions to climate change.

Anne Hedges, with the Montana Environmental Information Center, criticized Criswell’s argument.

"We believe that the full suite of emissions need to be accounted for. The idea that some people have mentioned, that we should only be looking at the direct emissions from diesel trucks traveling on a coal mine, when in fact all that coal has no other purpose other than to be burned, means that you are missing the majority of the impacts."

The Supreme Court in July will hear the state’s appeal of the Held case.

The Court’s ruling, and the 2025 legislative session could impact the suggestions the working group puts forward.

The working group will meet on June 27 to discuss its final recommendations.

Ellis Juhlin is MTPR's Rocky Mountain Front reporter. Ellis previously worked as a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a reporter at Yellowstone Public Radio. She has a Master's Degree in Ecology from Utah State University. She's an average birder and wants you to keep your cat indoors. She has two dogs, one of which is afraid of birds.
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