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Groups Plan Suit Against DEQ Over Mining Permit Law

Tribal and conservation groups have announced their intent to sue Montana, saying officials have failed to enforce its so-called ‘Bad Actor’ law.

State environmental regulators last month dropped their case to disqualify Hecla Mining from getting future mining permits in the state. The company’s CEO was previously an executive with Pegasus Gold, which abandoned mines near the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in the ‘90s. It cost taxpayers $35 million to clean up.

Now, seven groups, including the Fort Belknap Indian Community, the Montana Environmental Information Center and Earthjustice plan to sue the state.

In a motion filed Monday in State District Court in Helena, the groups acknowledged they cannot block regulators’ decision to drop the case against Hecla. However, they intend to sue the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for what they say is a failure to protect the state from ”predatory corporate executives.”

A Hecla spokesperson has said the so-called “Bad Actor” law is not applicable to Hecla or its CEO.

Earthjustice attorney Shiloh Hernandez tells MTPR the groups plan to send a notice to the DEQ seeking a response to their filing within two weeks. Hernandez says a decision to proceed with a suit will follow pending that response.

DEQ officials say they have not yet seen the groups’ notice of intent and have no comment at this time.

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.