Montana’s attempts to punish environmental litigation stopped

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The Week

Montana Republicans have had more fun this year than in the last 16 when their creativity was blocked by a Democratic governor.  This year they advanced a couple of ideas that might look good to those who don’t like environmental litigation.  However, they were too extreme for even a supermajority legislature and a Republican governor.

A measure introduced late last week by Sen. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, that would have directed the Department of Justice to investigate environmental groups is likely dead after a free conference committee voted to strike it from House Bill 693. Among other things, Ankney’s amendment would have empowered the Department of Justice to investigate environmental groups’ membership lists, funding, engagement in political speech, and influence on the government’s regulatory or permitting actions.

Democrats on the committee questioned if the measure would hold up to a judicial challenge and said they were troubled by the lack of a definition for “environmental organization.” Sen. Ellie Boldman, D-Missoula, wondered aloud if groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation would be subject to investigation. Ankney replied that was not his intention. Earlier in the meeting he’d said that his bill was directed at investigating groups that target natural resources issues with rhetoric.

The end of this article also discusses another bill that was still pending, Senate Bill 278, which then passed.  However, it was vetoed by a very conservative governor.

Governor Greg Gianforte on May 14 vetoed SB 278, a bill that contained provisions designed to penalize nonprofit environmental organizations. SB 278 would make nonprofit legal actions “challenging or supporting a government action” a taxable action under unrelated business income, and also require a nonprofit that challenges or supports a government action to – “under penalty or perjury” – file documentation with the Montana Attorney General listing the source of each donation over $50.

There would be serious constitutional questions about “rhetoric” (also known as “freedom of speech”), but I’m sure that won’t stop them from trying again.


3 thoughts on “Montana’s attempts to punish environmental litigation stopped”

  1. Ah, the irony of hypocrisy! GOP says “do NOT regulate private business” but it’s fine to regulate everyone else! The caliber of GOP elected officials has definitely decreased during my 70 years. I respected people like Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon and Oregon Governor Tom McCall but not now.
    It’s good that people with common sense and a view of what’s appropriate in a democracy prevailed in this case. Imagine the howls of outrage from GOP if someone introduced a bill to require the same type of reporting by the NRA!

  2. It’s interesting that we’ve had so many posts in which we’ve discussed the idea that “there is or isn’t a problem” and “solutions that are bad ideas.”

    If I were the Gov I’d appoint a bipartisan commission; perhaps like Co Roadless in which each side nominates folks and some proportion have to be agreed on by both parties. They would work on 1) identifying the problem, that is, listening to all voices and 2) proposing solutions. U of M and MSU folks could work in a supporting capacity.

    This won’t be removed from partisan drama unless someone takes steps to make that happen. It’s been done before and could be done again. Part of the challenge of good governance, IMHO, is providing places where collaboration is rewarded and all voices are heard. The Gov can do that.

  3. The public does need more collaboration, partly because of the misinformation and rewriting of history by right-wingers. They keep telling the lie that “environmentalists stopped active management for the last 30 years”. They also have fantasies about changing every environmental law to deregulate all logging. Collaboration should also be a ‘reality check’ for both citizens and lawmakers.

    When pushed about the meaning of “proper forest management”, most people have no specifics. Some will even say “let the foresters do their jobs”, ignoring existing rules, laws and policies.

    The quickest path to compromise is through consensus. Consensus cannot be achieved without public transparent collaboration. This goes for both extremes.


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