Montana AG wins round v. Wyoming over USSC water war

Legal News Line Jan. 4, 2008, 4:19am

Mike McGrath (C)

HELENA -- Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath has won a key battle in his on-going war with neighboring Wyoming over alleged breaches of a bi-state water-use contract. McGrath announced Wednesday that the U.S. Solicitor General's office had recommended that the U.S. Supreme Court hear Montana's lawsuit against upstream Wyoming. McGrath, who will soon step down as AG, called the decision "an important step in getting Montana water users the water they're entitled to." He first sued Wyoming's then-AG Pat Crank in February 2007 alleging Wyoming had broken its bi-state "Yellowstone River Compact" of 57 years. Montana claims Wyoming is using over its allocation by allowing its farmers and methane drillers to over-consume water from the Powder and Tongue Rivers. Crank came out swinging a few months after McGrath filed suit, LNL reported last April. He claimed the water that farmers and drillers pumped from underground aquifers wasn't covered by the compact and so Montana's claims "lack sufficient seriousness or dignity" to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court (USSC). The USSC holds original jurisdiction over cases of disputes around interstate agreements like the Yellowstone River Compact. The SG's brief said Montana's claim was of "sufficient importance" for the justices to accept jurisdiction, according to reports. Crank's appointed successor as Wyoming Attorney General, the low-profile Bruce A. Salzburg, has not yet released a public statement on the Solicitor General's brief. Salzburg has been on the job for less than six months.

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