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State environmental officials announced Thursday that they will either file appeals or seek reconsideration of two recent court rulings ordering them to issue permits, without conducting environmental assessments, for three controversial gravel pits in Gallatin County.

"Yes, we have decided to appeal," Montana Department of Environmental Quality Deputy Director Tom Livers said Thursday. "The basic reason is that we got forced into a position to issue these permits without any environmental review or public involvement and that is a major concern."

At the heart of the matter are two dueling state laws. The Montana Environmental Protection Act states that environmental studies must be conducted on any proposed operation whenever there is potential environmental impact. The Opencut Mining Act, on the other hand, allows only 60 days to conduct such studies.

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