HB 599 is a piece of legislation that passed the 2021 Montana Legislature and signed into law by Governor Gianforte. The legislation by Rep. Gunderson of Libby was intended to streamline the opencut mining permitting process by limiting public participation and removing important environmental protection regulations.
The State is currently revising its Administrative rules to incorporate HB 599 into how the DEQ operates its opencut mining program. This has given Friends of the Jocko and other interested parties the opportunity to comment and express their opposition to HB 599 and how it affects their right to meaningful public participation and Constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment.
“While HB 599 is a terrible law, Montana’s DEQ (Dept. of Environmental Quality) has that authority to write rules that help ensure the public knows what is being proposed and can provide meaningful comment on how a proposed mining operation would impact the community. Unfortunately, DEQ has written rules that only make the problems with the law worse. DEQ has the opportunity to hold permit applicants accountable, guarantee meaningful public participation, and to ensure that water and air issues are considered concurrently with the open cut permit so the public can understand the full scope of the proposed mining projects. Unfortunately, DEQ has done none of those things and instead is making the process simple for developers and impossible for neighbors. This is your opportunity to tell DEQ it is failing in its mission to protect the environment and the people of this state.” — Anne Hedges, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs for the Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC)