The Montana Supreme Court on Thursday reversed a lower court’s ruling that a state agency didn’t adequately consult with Jefferson County while reviewing a proposed major power transmission line project.
In its decision, the court reversed district Judge Loren Tucker’s September 2010 ruling and said the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ, had not violated its legal duty to consult with Jefferson County.
Prior to the lawsuit with Jefferson County, the DEQ had been preparing to release a draft environmental impact statement for NorthWestern Energy’s proposed 500-kV Mountain States Transmission Intertie, or MSTI.
Judge Tucker ruled in favor of Jefferson County’s claim that it hadn’t been adequately consulted in developing the document and further enjoined the state from releasing its impact statement until that had been satisfied.
The DEQ appealed the decision to the Montana Supreme Court, which found that state law requires the agency to develop the EIS and consult with Jefferson County before releasing a detailed statement.
The agency is not mandated, however, to consult with the county throughout its development of the EIS.
“The record reflects DEQ already has expended considerable effort to include Jefferson County in the environmental review process,” the ruling states.