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Butte-Silver Bow commissioners shut down citizens' Superfund cleanup resolution

A mining headframe in Uptown Butte, Montana with the city in view in the background.
Mike Albans
Montana Public Radio
A mining headframe in Uptown Butte, Montana with the city in view in the background.

A citizen-driven resolution that would have set Butte’s policy for ongoing Superfund cleanup is dead. The resolution was defeated after the county attorney made significant changes.

The resolution had been circulating for months among citizen watchdogs and county commissioners. It aired grievances over what’s seen as a lack of transparency from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The document references controversies over the EPA’s proposal to use partially contaminated infill material and attempts to discredit local scientists studying community health. But the version voted down by commissioners last week contained none of those provisions.

Evan Barrett, a long-time Superfund watchdog and organizer of the resolution, said the changes had completely gutted the intent.

“The way that the resolution is being presented tonight is totally unacceptable. I cannot support it the way it’s written and I don’t think you should be able to support it as well,” Barrett said.

Butte County Attorney Eileen Joyce defended the changes to the resolution. She said her office had done its job by stripping out matters of opinion and only leaving actionable policy proposals.

Commissioners argued over the changes and whether to table the measure. But they ultimately struck it down in a 6-4 vote.

Despite the defeat, Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive J.P. Gallagher said the public interest in the measure had pushed the EPA to increase community engagement. Gallagher added he intended to carry the spirit of the resolution forward.

John joined the Montana Public Radio team in August 2022. Born and raised in Helena, he graduated from the University of Montana’s School of Media Arts and created the Montana history podcast Land Grab. John can be contacted at
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