Attorney General Fox and Governor Bullock Stand Up for Montana’s Water Interests
Today Attorney General Tim Fox and Governor Steve Bullock announced that Montana has joined eleven other states in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) denial of a petition filed November 19, 2012, in federal court to implement new nutrient pollution standards under the Clean Water Act for the Missouri-Mississippi- River Basin.
Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) leads several other environmental organizations in suing the EPA for its denial of a petition under the Clean Water Act to establish revised or new water quality standards and total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) on phosphorous and nitrogen pollutant levels in the waters of the Missouri-Mississippi- River Basin. GRN argues the EPA needs to impose strict pollution controls on the states of the Missouri-Mississippi Basin in order to reduce nutrient pollution, rather than allowing states to achieve compliance utilizing their own methods and timelines. The EPA opposes the call for a new federal regulation, stating that the most effective way to control nutrient pollution is to allow states to implement their individual pollution control programs.
“This is a great example of how we can work with the federal government to protect Montana’s best interests,” Attorney General Fox said. “Each of the Missouri-Mississippi- River Basin states has its own system for analyzing watersheds and measuring TMDLs. The states’ solutions are better than a new federal regulation that will harm agriculture, and the EPA recognizes that. Let’s let Montanans continue to address the issue, not out-of-state special interest groups.”
“Montanans work best when we work together,” said Governor Bullock. “The TMDL program is a great example of people rolling up their sleeves to find practical solutions to difficult problems. The EPA is right to defer to Montana’s program, and it should be a model for the rest of the country.”
For the past several years, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has been actively working to develop nutrient standards for Montana waters. The numeric nutrient standards include three phases whereby numbers will be assigned to wadeable streams, large rivers, and lakes. Rulemaking for the wadeable streams and portions of some large rivers, such as the lower Yellowstone, is scheduled for 2013. This rulemaking includes wadeable streams across the entire state. The Nutrient Work Group created by the 2009 Montana Legislature brings all stakeholders together to actively participate in the ongoing process of implementing the nutrient standards, which is expected to take several more years. If the EPA is required to impose a new rule on the states, the hardest hit industries will be agriculture and forestry.
DEQ Director Tracy Stone-Manning said, “We’ve worked hard to address local concerns, by developing a common-sense approach towards achieving water quality. Part of that approach has been to create additional tools including nutrient trading, and wastewater reuse. If the EPA is required to impose a new standard upon Montana and other states, it would not only take several years to implement, but would lack the flexibility to develop systems that work on the local level.”
In addition to Montana, the states in support of the EPA’s position are: Nebraska, Louisiana, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, and Kansas. Seventeen regional and national agricultural organizations, many with Montana chapters, have intervened in support of the EPA and the states as well.