BILLINGS — Montana officials are backing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in its decision to deny a request that the federal government impose new pollution standards for nutrients entering rivers.

Gov. Steve Bullock and Attorney General Tim Fox said the state intervened against environment groups in a federal lawsuit they say could take away Montana's authority over nutrient pollution entering the state's rivers.

Since the 1980s, fertilizer, urban runoff and other pollution sources have caused a massive "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico that is uninhabitable for fish and other marine creatures.

The EPA has set a goal of reducing nutrients entering the Mississippi River Basin by 40 percent, by working with farmers and state governments, but the problem has persisted.

A federal judge approved Montana's motion to intervene Monday.

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