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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Geothermal Environment in Montana

Regulatory Information Overviews

Search for other summaries about Geothermal regulations and permitting.


At a Glance

Jurisdiction: Montana

Environmental Review Process: If a project requires a state agency action, the agency and the developer must comply with the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) .

Environmental Review Agency: Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Environmental Quality Council

Type of State Environmental Review (Leasing Stage): None

Type of State Environmental Review (Non-invasive Exploration): None

Type of State Environmental Review (Invasive Exploration): MEPA review process

Type of State Environmental Review (Drilling): MEPA review process

Type of State Environmental Review (Power Plant Siting): MEPA review process

Contacts/Agencies: Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Environmental Quality Council, Montana State Historic Preservation Office, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, United States Environmental Protection Agency

State Environment Process

Montana Environmental Policy Act Review Process

If a project requires a state agency action, the agency and the developer must comply with the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) unless the activities are otherwise exempt/excluded under Rule 17-4-607(5). MEPA is a procedural statute requiring public notice/comment and the consideration of alternatives, similar to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The MDEQ and the Montana Environmental Quality Council may be consulted by either the responsible agency or the developer during the MEPA process.

Cultural Resource Assessment Process

Typically, early consultation and close coordination with the Montana State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is necessary to prevent the inadvertent disruption of a historical site.

If heritage property or paleontological remains (hereafter “cultural resources”) are discovered on the project site, developers must comply with Montana state law. The discovery of cultural resources may require obtaining a permit and providing public notice and notice to Indian Tribes. Heritage property and paleontological remains are defined in Section 22-3-421 MCA. If the developer discovers cultural resources on any lands owned by the state, the developer must promptly report the presence of cultural resources to the SHPO and the MDNRC and take all reasonable steps to ensure preservation of the cultural resources. MCA 22-3-435. Upon a cultural resource discovery, the MDNRC will consult with the SHPO and determine whether it is necessary to prepare an antiquities inventory for the project area. After preparing an antiquities inventory (if required), the MDNRC considers the potential project effects and may require mitigation measures or excavation in order for the project to continue.

Biological Resource Assessment Process

Developers should consult with biologists within the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFWP) division to determine whether protected wildlife habitats will be affected by the project. The MFWP will suggest approaches for avoiding or mitigating damage to local ecosystems.

Water Resource Assessment Process

Geothermal developers may be required to obtain several permits related to water quality issues, including permits for nonpoint source pollution, NPDES permitting, underground injection control, 401 water quality certification, and groundwater discharge.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) administers a voluntary regulatory Nonpoint Source Pollution Management Program to control the impacts of nonpoint source pollution. The MDEQ program consists of public awareness, cooperation with other agencies and land owners, and the application of Best Management Practices (BMPs). Developers may choose to comply with the program.

Developers must comply with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements if their project will discharge pollutants into the waters of the United States. Montana has been granted authority by the Environmental Protection Agency to administer the NPDES program within the state. The MDEQ issued NPDEs permits in accordance with EPA regulations and MCA 75-5-402. Generally, industrial, municipal, and other facilities must obtain NPDES permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters.

The EPA has not delegated authority to Montana to regulate Class V underground injection control wells. Developers seeking underground injection control wells for geothermal activities must receive authority from Region 8 of the EPA.

Developers must obtain a 401 Water Quality Certification from the MDEQ if their project implicates any federal license or permit issued to construct or operate a facility which may result in any fill or discharge into navigable waters of the United States. The MDEQ has developed administrative rules for water quality certification under Rules of 17.30.101 -17.30.109.

If the project will impact groundwater in any of the below mentioned ways, the developer must obtain a groundwater discharge permit. The MDEQ protects groundwater quality through issuing groundwater discharge permits under MCA 75-5-101 and Rule 17-30-10 for activities that impact groundwater quality such as surface disposal, septic systems, unlined ponds, overland flow, reuse and irrigation.

Air Quality Assessment Process

Developers may be required to obtain an air quality permit for their project based on the requirements outlined in the Clean Air Act of Montana and implementing regulations ( Rule 17-8). Generally, facilities with the potential to emit more than 25 tons per year of any airborne pollutant, other than lead, require a Montana air quality permit.

Waste and Hazardous Material Assessment Process

For projects that require the installation of an underground storage tank, developers are required to obtain approval from the MDEQ. Developers may also be required to obtain a Hazardous Waste Permit and a Waste Disposal Permit.

The MDEQ administers the Underground Storage Tank (UST) Program for the State of Montana. Before any underground storage activities commence, the developer must notify the MDEQ. MCA 75-11-501 et seq. - Montana Underground Storage Tank Act. The MDEQ process is guided by Rule 17-56.

Developers must obtain a Hazardous Waste Permit from the MDEQ if their project facility will treat, store, dispose, or transport hazardous waste. MCA 75-10-4 and Rule 17-53. Montana’s applicable hazardous waste statute and regulations are based on the federal regulations: Title 40 CFR 260-270 Hazardous Waste

Local Environment Process

not available

Policies & Regulations


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