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DEQ seeks public comment amid conflict over Lake Koocanusa selenium standards

Libby Dam on Lake Koocanusa in northwest Montana.
USGS
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https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2020/1098/ofr20201098.pdf
Libby Dam on Lake Koocanusa in northwest Montana.

Montana’s environmental regulatory agency is reaffirming its argument that a pollution standard for Lake Koocanusa follows state and federal law. The draft findings come after a state review board called it into question.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality is asking for public comment on a draft document outlining how a selenium standard for Lake Koocanusa follows state law. DEQ will hold a public hearing on its findings later this month.

Montana worked for years to implement the rule in response to data showing selenium from British Columbia coal mines was running into the lake.

The governor-appointed Board of Environmental Review in February decided that the process to set the selenium standard violated state law. That was in response to petitions from Lincoln County commissioners and a Canadian coal mining company. The board argued that the rule needed to be thrown out.

DEQ has pushed back against that argument, saying the Legislature stripped the board of that authority. The Board of Environmental Review will discuss its written order on the issue Friday.

Aaron Bolton is Montana Public Radio's Flathead Valley reporter.
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