Montana Attorney General Rebuked; Brief Filed in Support of Clean Water

Why is Montana’s Attorney General – Tim Fox – trying to stop pollution clean-up on the East Coast?

Over 3,000 miles away, our nation’s largest estuary – the Chesapeake Bay – is the subject of a comprehensive TMDL (aka a “pollution diet” or “Total Maximum Daily Load”) to clean-up decades of pollution that hurts water quality, communities and an important regional economy. This federally-mandated TMDL only happened after years of voluntary measures failed to make any improvements in water quality.  Today, that TMDL is currently the subject of a lawsuit brought by the American Farm Bureau.

Although EPA was successful in defending the TMDL at the first stage, the Farm Bureau has appealed and now the state Attorney Generals for 21 states – including Montana’s Attorney General – have joined the challenge to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL by filing what’s called an “amicus brief,” essentially a voluntary legal brief by “friends of the court” that tries to influence a court’s decisionmaking.

[highlight] In response to the misguided support by Montana and other states’ Attorneys General today, April 24th, Upper Missouri Waterkeeper and allies filed an amicus brief with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark clean water improvement plan for the Chesapeake Bay region. [/highlight]

Montana’s Attorney General is just plain wrong. First, Montana’s Attorney General shouldn’t be spending tax dollars to try and stop pollution clean-ups on the East Coast. Second, any say Montana has in other state’s pollution clean-up should be based solely on science and the law.  Decades of science and an overwhelming body of evidence supports the legal and scientific basis for the Chesapeake Bay TMDL and EPA’s clean water improvement plan.

It is telling that all but one of the states (West Virginia) filing as amici/intervenors challenging the Chesapeake clean water protection plan are from outside the Chesapeake Bay region, and many are along the highly polluted Mississippi River, which is thought to be next on the list for a potential, comprehensive TMDL to address decades of pollution.

“Clean water is one of the few issues that draws together Montanan’s from all walks of life,” said Guy Alsentzer, Executive Director of Upper Missouri Waterkeeper. “There’s a perverse irony in the fact that Montana’s Attorney General is spending public tax dollars to defend polluters on the East Coast while Montana’s own, precious waterways are being slowly poisoned. Montana’s Attorney General should be supporting, not undermining, clean water protections that protect families, drinking water, and healthy rivers.”

The decline in local water quality poses a serious threat to Southwest Montana’s important recreational-based economy, affecting everything from fishing opportunities to real estate. Algae blooms and high water temperatures – common consequences of nutrient and sediment pollution – hurt Montana business and cost taxpayers money for treatment in order to ensure clean drinking water supplies.

Citizens of Montana should be concerned that our Attorney General is not only supporting lawsuits that protect polluters on the East Coast, but in the process is threatening to undermine important legal protections for clean water that Montana desperately relies upon to keep its rivers and landscapes fishable, swimmable and boatable!

Montana has nothing to do with the Farm Bureau’s lawsuit. We know well that clean, readily available water is one of our most important natural resources and, in turn, deserves strong, science-based protections and support from our elected leaders like the Attorney General!

Read our Press Release here.