US Supreme Court Order: Montana Entitled to Damages for Wyoming’s Violation of Yellowstone River Compact
The United States Supreme Court issued an order today in State of Montana v. State of Wyoming that recognizes Montana suffered damages as the result of Wyoming’s failure to abide by terms of the Yellowstone River Compact with respect to waters of the Tongue River. The order remanded the case to the Special Master for determination of damages and of other appropriate relief.
Attorney General Tim Fox said, “Montana has believed all along that appropriate injunctive relief to prevent future violations by Wyoming was a critical component of the lawsuit, and this gives us the ability to seek that relief from the Special Master. Montana and Wyoming are neighbors sharing the resource, and a defined path forward as to how that sharing will occur is key to productivity on both sides of the border.”
Last April, Montana prevailed in the Special Master’s ruling on the case, and Wyoming acknowledged that it violated terms of the Compact by failing to provide water to Montana when called upon to do so. Attorney General Fox asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the Special Master’s ruling in favor of Montana, and to also uphold Montana’s full measure of damages for Wyoming’s violation of the compact. Since Montana prevailed, it will request that Wyoming pay all fees and costs associated with this litigation, and that the Court specify a firm mechanism to prevent Wyoming from ignoring Montana’s calls for water in the future.
In 2014, Attorney General 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. Thompson is a professor at Stanford Law School.
Montana filed suit against Wyoming in 2007 for failing to release water to the Tongue and Powder Rivers as required by a 1950 compact between the two states.
A copy of today’s order is available here: https://dojmt.gov/wp-admin/upload.php?item=37161