Upper Missouri Waterkeeper Submits Comments Opposing Water Quality Rollback

Technical Comments Call Out the Dept. of Environmental Quality’s Disingenuous, Unlawful Rulemaking Process For Polluters

Upper Missouri Waterkeeper submitted technical comments alongside the Montana Environmental Information Center and Montana Trout Unlimited on the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) proposed amendment of ARM 17.30.1304 and adoption of New Rule 1 directed by Senate Bill 358. DEQ is hosting a public hearing today at 2:00 p.m. in Room 111 of the Metcalf Building, 1520 East Sixth Ave in Helena and Waterkeeper will be providing testimony.

The proposed ‘New Rule 1’ is the first of a two-part rulemaking in response to the passage of Senate Bill 358 during the 2021 Legislative Session, aimed at rolling back Montana’s protective, science-based numeric nutrient pollution criteria for surface waters in favor of unproven, ambiguous, and non-protective narrative criteria. This significant backslide was driven by the state’s largest point source polluters – municipal wastewater treatment plants, oil refineries, industrial mines – to avoid responsibility for the pollution they discharge to our public waterways and neglect the necessary investments to upgrade pollution control technologies.

“The State of Montana is doing a disservice to all Montanans, our waterways, and our way of life by proposing weak pollution control rules that let the biggest polluters off the hook for doing their fair share to protect clean water ,” said Guy Alsentzer, Executive Director of Upper Missouri Waterkeeper. “Eliminating science-based pollution control standards and allowing open-ended ‘adaptive management programs’ will only fast-track the degradation of our world-class waterways and fisheries.”

Upper Missouri Waterkeeper opposes this fundamentally unlawful rulemaking as it: 

1) violates the federal Clean Water Act and Montana state law, both of which require the state to meet best available scientific standards and use a proven system to reduce nutrient pollution; 

2) lacks any scientific basis, and in fact removes the scientific standards for which we measure waterway health; and 

3) will further degrade water quality across the state by removing our ability to proactively control pollution discharges to our waterways, harming the outdoor industry and countless businesses, Montanans’ drinking water, and aquatic and fisheries habitat.

The DEQ needs to use best-available science and a proven, legal system of pollution control to ensure the health of Montana’s waterways now and into the future. Waterkeeper will continue to advocate for science-based, lawful solutions and hold both the DEQ and Environmental Protection Agency accountable for complying with clean water law and maintaining a ‘clean and healthful’ environment for all Montanans.