Montana Code Annotated 2015

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     75-1-208. Environmental review procedure. (1) (a) Except as provided in 75-1-205(4) and subsection (1)(b) of this section, an agency shall comply with this section when completing any environmental review required under this part.
     (b) To the extent that the requirements of this section are inconsistent with federal requirements, the requirements of this section do not apply to an environmental review that is being prepared jointly by a state agency pursuant to this part and a federal agency pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act or to an environmental review that must comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.
     (2) (a) Except as provided in subsection (2)(b), a project sponsor may, after providing a 30-day notice, appear before the environmental quality council at any regularly scheduled meeting to discuss issues regarding the agency's environmental review of the project. The environmental quality council shall ensure that the appropriate agency personnel are available to answer questions.
     (b) If the primary concern of the agency's environmental review of a project is the quality or quantity of water, a project sponsor may, after providing a 30-day notice, appear before the water policy committee established in 5-5-231 at any regularly scheduled meeting to discuss issues regarding the agency's environmental review of the project. The water policy committee shall ensure that the appropriate agency personnel are available to answer questions.
     (3) If a project sponsor experiences problems in dealing with the agency or any consultant hired by the agency regarding an environmental review, the project sponsor may submit a written request to the agency director requesting a meeting to discuss the issues. The written request must sufficiently state the issues to allow the agency to prepare for the meeting. If the issues remain unresolved after the meeting with the agency director, the project sponsor may submit a written request to appear before the appropriate board, if any, to discuss the remaining issues. A written request to the appropriate board must sufficiently state the issues to allow the agency and the board to prepare for the meeting.
     (4) (a) Subject to the requirements of subsection (5), to ensure a timely completion of the environmental review process, an agency is subject to the time limits listed in this subsection (4) unless other time limits are provided by law. All time limits are measured from the date the agency receives a complete application. An agency has:
     (i) 60 days to complete a public scoping process, if any;
     (ii) 90 days to complete an environmental review unless a detailed statement pursuant to 75-1-201(1)(b)(iv) or 75-1-205(4) is required; and
     (iii) 180 days to complete a detailed statement pursuant to 75-1-201(1)(b)(iv).
     (b) The period of time between the request for a review by a board and the completion of a review by a board under 75-1-201(9) or subsection (10) of this section may not be included for the purposes of determining compliance with the time limits established for conducting an environmental review under this subsection or the time limits established for permitting in 75-2-211, 75-2-218, 75-20-216, 75-20-231, 76-4-125, 82-4-122, 82-4-231, 82-4-337, and 82-4-432.
     (5) An agency may extend the time limits in subsection (4) by notifying the project sponsor in writing that an extension is necessary and stating the basis for the extension. The agency may extend the time limit one time, and the extension may not exceed 50% of the original time period as listed in subsection (4). After one extension, the agency may not extend the time limit unless the agency and the project sponsor mutually agree to the extension.
     (6) If the project sponsor disagrees with the need for the extension, the project sponsor may request that the appropriate board, if any, conduct a review of the agency's decision to extend the time period. The appropriate board may, at its discretion, submit an advisory recommendation to the agency regarding the issue.
     (7) (a) Except as provided in subsection (7)(b), if an agency has not completed the environmental review by the expiration of the original or extended time period, the agency may not withhold a permit or other authority to act unless the agency makes a written finding that there is a likelihood that permit issuance or other approval to act would result in the violation of a statutory or regulatory requirement.
     (b) Subsection (7)(a) does not apply to a permit granted under Title 75, chapter 2, or under Title 82, chapter 4, parts 1 and 2.
     (8) Under this part, an agency may only request information from the project sponsor that is relevant to the environmental review required under this part.
     (9) An agency shall ensure that the notification for any public scoping process associated with an environmental review conducted by the agency is presented in an objective and neutral manner and that the notification does not speculate on the potential impacts of the project.
     (10) An agency may not require the project sponsor to provide engineering designs in greater detail than that necessary to fairly evaluate the proposed project. The project sponsor may request that the appropriate board, if any, review an agency's request regarding the level of design detail information that the agency believes is necessary to conduct the environmental review. The appropriate board may, at its discretion, submit an advisory recommendation to the agency regarding the issue.
     (11) An agency shall, when appropriate, evaluate the cumulative impacts of a proposed project. However, related future actions may only be considered when these actions are under concurrent consideration by any agency through preimpact statement studies, separate impact statement evaluations, or permit processing procedures.

     History: En. Sec. 1, Ch. 299, L. 2001; amd. Sec. 4, Ch. 337, L. 2005; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 366, L. 2009; amd. Sec. 4, Ch. 396, L. 2011; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 122, L. 2015.

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