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Montana news about the environment, natural resources, wildlife, climate change and more.

Environmental groups seek court action over climate petition

A coalition of nonprofits and businesses are asking a court to order state utility regulators to respond to their petition to incorporate climate change into their decision-making.

In late February, over 40 interest groups and Montana businesses petitioned the Public Service Commission to consider climate change as part of their role regulating utilities.

According to Montana code, agencies have 60 days to respond to a petition for changing rules, like the one the group submitted. The petitioners say the commission has ignored this timeline and not provided a response. Now, some of the petitioners have requested a court order requiring the state agency to either deny their petition or begin the rulemaking process.

Nick Fitzmaurice is with the Montana Environmental Information Center, one of the groups involved. He says they want the process to move forward ahead of a statutory deadline that prevents state agencies from changing rules three months before a legislative session.

“We're worried that, at the least, this is going to delay the ability to have a rule and to start considering climate impacts and regulation of utilities in Montana. Or at the worst, could kind of give the PSC an opportunity to just not make a decision altogether and just let this go away,” said Fitzmaurice.

It is now up to the court to decide the next step. The judge may order the PSC to respond to the petition or hold a hearing where the parties can come and explain their sides.

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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