DEQ Mission Statement and Priority Projects

DEQ Mission Statement

The Department of Environmental Quality's mission is to protect, sustain, and improve a clean and healthful environment to benefit present and future generations.

DEQ Priority Projects

During the summer of 2019, Governor Bullock requested that executive agencies outline their priority projects for the remainder of the Governor's term. The following highlights showcase DEQ's work over the last year.

CLIMATE CHANGE

On July 1, the Governor signed the Executive Order establishing the Montana Climate Solutions Council with the task of providing made-in-Montana recommendations and solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prepare the state for climate impacts, and address the needs of communities in transition through appropriate economic development and workforce strategies. The Council is directed to deliver its report by June 15, 2020. Patrick Holmes and I will co-manage the effort, and I will co-chair the Mitigation Committee. I have established an internal DEQ staff support team to assist me and to provide staff support to the Council. The initiative will be a top priority for me over the next year in developing the report. Following issuance of the report, we will move to implementation as appropriate for the remainder of the term. Other priorities that fall under this initiative include:

  • “Zero-Waste Goal” for DEQ
  • LEED Certification of the Metcalf Building
  • NorthWestern Energy general rate case, tracking Green Tariffs, Net Metering, and energy efficiency
  • Regional Electric Vehicle Plan for the West (REV West)

HIGH-PRIORITY SUPERFUND CONSENT DECREES

  • Butte Priority Soils Operable Unit, including amendment to the existing Record of Decision and Explanation of Significant Difference.
  • Anaconda Regional Water, Waste, and Soils Operable Unit, including amendment to the existing Records of Decision.

LIBBY ASBESTOS SUPERFUND SITE

Transition the Libby Asbestos Site (excluding Operable Unit 3, the Mine site) to Long Term Operations and Maintenance through effective partnership with Lincoln County.

REMEDIATION AT COLSTRIP

  • All the remedies for the Colstrip ash ponds will be chosen and implementation initiated;
  • All financial assurance will be in place;
  • DEQ will be overseeing decommissioning of Units 1 and 2.

UNDERGROUND STORAGE TANK PETROLEUM RELEASES

Continue to reduce leaking underground storage tank backlog.

  • Close 120 leaking underground storage tank petroleum releases.
  • Efficiently spend the $1M appropriation (transfer from Petro Board to DEQ) to cleanup petroleum release sites.

LEAD IN DRINKING WATER AT MONTANA SCHOOLS

Coordinate with DPHHS and OPI on implementing new DPHHS rules that require schools to sample for and remove lead from drinking water statewide. DEQ helped draft the rules and will provide technical assistance to DPHHS and schools, and will assist in securing funding.

PURSUE AMMONIA VARIANCE RULEMAKING

Analyze the adoption of a new, more protective Ammonia water quality criteria along with variances for lagoons. Development of the variance will occur under new authorities the Department successfully sought last Legislative session through SB 48 (2019).

LAKE KOOCANUSA

DEQ is coordinating with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change in British Columbia for the purpose of approving in 2020 site specific selenium criteria for Lake Koocanusa that are protective of relevant uses of the water body.

STATE CERTIFICATION UNDER SECTION 401 OF THE CLEAN WATER ACT

DEQ will defend Montana’s authority to protect water quality and drinking water through the implementation of 401 certification. On Aug 9, 2019, U.S. EPA proposed regulations that would undermine States’ ability to manage and protect water quality. In May, the National Governors Association issued a statement on this issue that “The federal government’s role should be to support state efforts to achieve water quality goals as laid out in the Clean Water Act. Yet, [the proposed regulation] seeks to upset the balance of cooperative federalism laid out in Section 401 of the CWA.”

SMOKE IMPACTS FROM WILDFIRES

In line with DEQ’s participation on the Governor’s Forest Action Advisory Council, DEQ will develop a decision package during the Executive Planning Process for the Administration’s consideration for general fund dollars that will be used to collect and disseminate data/information related to smoke impacts from wildfires. This information is essential for citizens to make decisions concerning their health during wildfires. This decision package will include an on-going general fund appropriation of approximately $300,000 to be used by the State Air Program and local air quality jurisdictions. The decision package will be developed by the Air Program by February 2020 and vetted through DEQ’s Director’s Office.

COAL MINE BANKRUPTCIES

DEQ’s Coal Program and Chief Legal Counsel’s Office will continue the important work of monitoring and navigating coal bankruptcies in an effort to protect the State’s interests. This work insures that the necessary bond and reclamation efforts are in line with state and federal statute, and endeavors to guarantee that coal company’s reclamation bonds stay viable throughout the bankruptcy process.

MINE BONDING

DEQ has been working diligently to improve the consistency and transparency of the calculation, updating and tracking of mine bonding in Montana. This work will continue in order to ensure adequate bonding associated with hard rock, coal and opencut mining permits.

OPENCUT MINING REFORMS

DEQ will develop and implement the provisions of SB 343 passed in the 2019 session. The bill revises the Opencut Act to include the streamlining of the permitting process, while enhancing and improving the environmental regulation required of the program.