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Montana news about the environment, natural resources, wildlife, climate change and more.

Biden, Trudeau announce progress on Canadian coal mine pollution agreement

Map of active and inactive coal mines in Canada's British Columbia province
British Columbia
Map of active and inactive coal mines in Canada's British Columbia province

President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have announced a forthcoming deal to “reduce and mitigate” the impact of pollution flowing into Montana and Idaho from Canadian coal mines.

On Friday, Biden and Trudeau announced in a joint statement that an agreement to reduce and mitigate selenium pollution flowing from British Columbia coal mines in the Elk River Valley could be struck sometime this summer, though no details beyond that were released.

In 2020, an international group made up of Montana and British Columbia officials, tribes and other stakeholders came to a non-binding agreement that selenium standards for the Elk River as well as the transboundary Lake Koocanusa and Kootenai River, which are downstream, should be lowered. Selenium at high concentrations can harm fish populations.

Selenium at high concentrations can harm fish populations. Montana, Idaho and U.S. environmental officials have approved a lower standard for Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River to protect fish, but British Columbia has not changed its regulation.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho and the Ktunaxa Nation in British Columbia are pushing the U.S. and Canada to set up a tribally-led watershed board in order to address the issue. The tribes in a press release said they will reiterate that request during a visit to Washington D.C. this week.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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