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Montana Envtl. Info. Ctr., Inc. v. Montana Dep't of Transp.

Citation: 30 ELR 20299
No. No. 99-422, 994 P.2d 676/(Mont., 01/11/2000)

The court holds that the Montana Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) requires a state department of transportation to conduct a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for a traffic interchange that was part of the department's plan to revise and improve the transportation network in the North Helena Valley in Montana. After evaluating four alternatives for a new interchange, the department made a decision and prepared an environmental impact statement (EIS). Subsequently, information began to surface from the department that the interchange chosen by the department may not as effectively address the traffic problems as was originally anticipated. The court first holds that the department did not make a reasoned decision based on all relevant factors when it concluded that an SEIS was not necessary. Since completion of the original EIS for the interchange, the change in traffic patterns, the development around a key interchange, the city's development patterns, and the proposed alternatives to the chosen interchange were all significant new circumstances that required an SEIS. Therefore, the department's decision not to prepare an SEIS was arbitrary and in violation of MEPA and its regulations.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (13 pp., ELR Order No. L-169).

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Jack R. Tuholske
Law Offices of Jack R. Tuholske
401 N. Washington St., Missoula MT 59802
(406) 721-6986

Counsel for Defendants
Lyle Manley
Montana Department of Transportation
2701 Prospect Ave., Helena MT 59620
(406) 444-6200