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Selenium limit at Lake Koocanusa will stay in place following legal disputes

Libby Dam on Lake Koocanusa in northwest Montana.
Libby Dam on Lake Koocanusa in northwest Montana.

A disputed rule that sets an acceptable level of pollution in a northwest Montana lake will stay in place after environmental officials agreed it complies with state law.

In 2020, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the Montana Board of Environmental Review set the selenium standard for Lake Koocanusa after years of data showed growing selenium pollution flowing from Teck Resources’ coal mines in British Columbia.

Teck Resources and Lincoln County commissioners last year petitioned the board to throw out the rule, saying it didn’t follow state law and regulations. New members of Montana’s Board of Environmental Review agreed with the petitioners, but lacked the authority to invalidate the selenium standard due to changes in state law.

After taking public comment on the issue, DEQ released findings saying the rule follows state law and is necessary to protect fish reproduction. Teck Resources still disagrees with the standard, according to a statement from spokesperson Chris Stannell.