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DEQ Seeking Input on Environmental Impact Analysis Process Under the Montana Environmental Policy Act

  • September 27 2023

HELENA— Today, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is inviting Montanans to attend one of its upcoming listening sessions to be held in-person and online over the next month, and unveiling an online public comment portal to solicit feedback on implementation of the Montana Environmental Policy Act, also known as MEPA.

Enacted in 1971, MEPA is the law that requires state agencies to prepare an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement as part of certain decision-making processes. At its simplest, MEPA is a process. MEPA ensures that state officials broadly consider the potential environmental impacts of proposed actions before making a decision. It requires state agencies to look beyond the specific project they are reviewing to consider the variety of ways the project may affect the environment in the short term and long term. MEPA also ensures that the public is informed of potential impacts and given an opportunity to provide input in the decision-making process.

“DEQ stands behind the intent and purpose of MEPA as a bedrock environmental process,” said DEQ Director Chris Dorrington. “We also recognize that regulatory frameworks require updating to account for the experiences over the past fifty years. MEPA was adopted in the 1970s. The administrative rules that implement MEPA were adopted in the 1980s. These regulations are showing their age and it’s time to hear from Montanans about what MEPA should look like today and into the future.”

MEPA’s statutory language is broad. It is closely scrutinized and interpreted under different lenses. MEPA is procedural, meaning it is a way of researching, considering and sharing environmental information. Specifically, MEPA alone does not give state officials decision-making authority to approve or deny proposals based on their level of impact. In this way, MEPA complements Montana’s strong environmental regulations, which authorize agencies to limit the pollution that can be emitted into the air, discharged into waterways, or otherwise disposed of in Montana, and reject or require modification of proposals that are not protective. MEPA, coupled with these strong environmental regulations, implements Montana’s constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment.

Through its comment portal and listening sessions, DEQ is seeking creative and thoughtful feedback to assist in future discussions about modernizing MEPA. DEQ is not seeking comments on specific permits or projects in this forum, project-specific comments are accepted through traditional means. It is DEQ’s intent that comments and feedback received will be reviewed, compiled and shared as part of an ongoing effort to transparently work through some of the more challenging aspects of MEPA.

“MEPA is a process-focused law, and it is time to broaden the conversation to include all Montanans. I’m seeking thoughtful suggestions to help lead MEPA into the next decade and beyond,” Dorrington explained. "Montanans may ask—Why now? MEPA has been in the spotlight recently, particularly with the Held v. State decision earlier this summer. We want to start a thoughtful dialogue about greenhouse gas emissions and other topics, and we are seeking input that is balanced and driven by sound science. Please help us consider what changes, if any, are needed to modernize or clarify MEPA and identify opportunities for agencies to be more thorough, balanced, or consistent.”

MEPA statutes can be found in Montana Code Annotated at:

DEQ’s MEPA rules can be found in the Administrative Rules of Montana at:

DEQ will be accepting comments, suggestions and feedback through December 1, 2023. To share your thoughts, view guiding questions and conversation prompts, or learn about how to attend a hybrid listening session, visit DEQ’s website:


Tags: MEPA and Press Release