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Environmental groups file suit, say new laws undermine climate safeguards in Montana

Conservation groups are suing Montana environmental regulators over new laws they say violate federal protections against coal mining impacts.

The four groups, Citizens for Clean Energy, Montana Environmental Information Center, Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians, filed a complaint in Great Falls district court Thursday.

They allege two new laws break the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act by going into effect without first acquiring federal approval. One law changes the definition of “material damage” for rivers and other water bodies. Under the new law, mining operations would not violate water quality standards as long as the damage is not “long term or permanent.”

The other law passes the legal costs onto the loser of a lawsuit brought against a mining operation.

This lawsuit is one of multiple conservation groups have brought against new state laws they say hurt environmental protections. The groups are calling for a hold on the laws and for federal review and public comment before they can go into effect.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.