Attorney General Fox Gives Closing Argument in Montana v. Wyoming Water Trial

Today, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox presented the state’s closing arguments in the Montana v. Wyoming water trial.The attorneys general of Montana and Wyoming presented their arguments before Barton

Thompson, the special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Barton is a professor at Stanford Law School.

In 2007, Montana filed suit against Wyoming for removing more water from the Tongue and Powder Rivers than allowed under a 1950 compact between the two states. As a result of water being taken illegally from these rivers before they flow north into Montana, water users in Montana have been denied 10,160 acre feet (more than 3.3 billion gallons) of water over the last decade.

“You have before you a genuine dispute between two sovereigns, a dispute over both facts and law, which will affect their actions for all future time,” Attorney General Fox told Special Master Thompson. “It is important that the court resolve the dispute and provide a workable methodology for Compact compliance. For that reason, I urge you to resist Wyoming’s requests to summarily dismiss this case, ‘without further ado,’ as they have stated so cavalierly.”

Fox argued “it isn’t just about water rights, inter-state compacts, and technical engineering and hydrology data. All of that is important, but it is important only because it leads us back to focus on the people who depend upon that water. They are the heart and soul of this case, and they are the reason we stand before you today. … I ask you to remember those Montana faces and stories. They have worked to overcome hardship and to keep their community together. They are not asking for special rules, they are just asking for both sides of the border to play by the same rules.  The State of Montana looks to this Court to help us meet that request.”

Today’s arguments mark the end of the trial phase. The Special Master Thompson will next issue a report based on briefing and arguments received up to this point, and both Montana and Wyoming will have the opportunity to object to that report. If either party raises objections, the case will then be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

While on Stanford’s campus today, Attorney General Fox and Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael spoke with Stanford Law School students about western environmental law issues. The panel discussion was streamed live to University of Montana School of Law students in Missoula.

Resources:
Attorney General Fox’s opening statement
Montana’s post-trial brief