Setting the record straight on HB 722

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I would like to provide some factual information about HB 722, a bill I am sponsoring this session, as it was the focus of a recent letter to the editor and was completely misrepresented.

HB 722 allows the transferring of a suspended hard rock mining permit to another entity as long as certain conditions are met. This bill requires that the person receiving the permit will need to meet all regulatory requirements such as the assumption of reclamation costs, conditions of the permit, and any additional bond that the Department of Environmental Quality imposes.

The bill also allows the DEQ to have the flexibility to hold a permit in suspension and use existing bond proceeds to abate any imminent danger to public health, public safety or the environment.

HB 722 is a bill that we hope the DEQ never has to use, because it means we have a mining company that is out of compliance with Montana’s regulatory requirements and has had its permit suspended as a result.

Rather than revoking the permit and requiring immediate reclamation work, HB 722 allows the state to hold the permit in suspension up to five years if a successor operator makes an application for the permit while still retaining the forfeited financial resources to take care of any imminent threat to the environment or human health during this time period.

It is also worth noting that this bill doesn’t mandate anything. The decision to use this flexibility resides with the DEQ, as it should.

— Rep. Steve Gunderson, District 1

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