Montana Lawmakers Buck Trend, Pass Law Curbing Climate Impact Reviews
The federal government has made a push toward enacting policies addressing climate change in recent years, but state lawmakers in Montana are bucking the trend, recently passing a law curbing climate impact reviews in the state.
State Rep. Josh Kassmier last month introduced House Bill 971, an amendment to the Montana Environmental Policy Act that changes the process of how large projects are reviewed by preventing state regulators from considering greenhouse gas emissions and climate impacts when conducting environmental reviews.
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the bill into law on May 10.
The move comes in a state is known for its outdoor recreation and vast landscapes, with diverse terrain ranging from the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains and several national and state parks, including a portion of Yellowstone, the first plot of land in the U.S. to be designated as federally protected.
Critics argue the bill also violates the 50-year-old Montana state constitution, which guarantees Montanans the right to a “clean and healthful environment.”
The state clause is the “strongest constitutional provision” in the U.S. for protecting the environment, Hedges said. It is also the strongest argument environmentalist have to challenge House Bill 971 in court, Michelle Bryan, a professor at the University of Montana’s natural resources and environmental law program, told ABC News.
The law will likely be challenged as a violation of the state constitution, Bryan said, adding that in the past when the state legislature has attempted to amend the Montana Environmental Protection Act and was challenged in court, the amendment failed.
Effects on the Environment
Critics say Montana is already experiencing the effects of climate change, pointing to a whiplash of severe weather events like constant flooding on the Yellowstone River, extreme heat, one of the largest snowpacks to fall in the last decade, decades-long drought and wildfires raging more than a month before the dry season officially begins. There have been several climate assessments done in the state on these weather events, Bryan said.
Last week, air quality alerts were issued in Montana due to the early season wildfires burning in Canada — a clear consequence of warming temperatures, critics argued.
“The people of Montana have an interest in good decisions being made that aren’t going to worsen climate change,” said Robin Saha, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Montana.
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News Source : Julia Jacobo
Source Link :Montana’s new law banning climate impact reviews sparks backlash from environmental experts/