Montana Public Radio

Environmental Protection Agency

L to R, Butte Superfund Activist Fritz Dailey, US Senator Steve Daines and Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler at the confluence of Blacktail and Silver Bow Creeks in Butte, September 7, 2018.
Eric Whitney / Montana Public Radio

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency visited the Superfund sites in Butte and Anaconda Friday. The last time the head of the agency did so was 28 years ago.

Andrew Wheeler was named acting administrator of the EPA in July, following the departure of Scott Pruitt amid ethics scandals.

The Libby eagle sits above downtown Libby, Montana.
Nicky Ouellet

In about a year, the Environmental Protection Agency will leave Libby, where it’s worked for the last two decades to clean up asbestos contamination, a lethal byproduct leftover from W.R. Grace’s vermiculite mine. But locals in Lincoln County say the EPA packing up doesn’t necessarily mean cleanup work is done.

Bill MacGregor and Janice Hogan are the vice president and coordinator of the Citizens Technical Environmental Committee in Butte, seen in this photo from June 6, 2018.
Nora Saks

Billie Richardson is chatting with customers at Suited For Success, a small non-profit thrift store she runs in Uptown Butte. Richardson is 74 years-old. She was raised here, and for a while, moved around.

"I’ve lived a lot of places but I always come back because this is home," says Richardson. "Butte’s the last best place.”

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.
Montana Department of Labor and Industry

The Chief of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be in Butte and Anaconda Friday, Senator Steve Daines announced Tuesday.  

Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler will tour Superfund sites and meet with local leaders and community members in the Mining and Smelter cities.

Evan Barrett, a member of Butte's local Restore Our Creek Coalition, looks at plans for the creek corridors with state budget director Dan Villa. August 30, 2018.
Nora Saks

On Thursday, August 30, about 60 people huddled around tables in the backroom of the Butte Brewing Company, not drinking, but pouring over maps of the Upper Silver Bow and Blacktail Creek corridors at the second in a series of community design workshops.

Dave Hutchins (L) and Daniel Hogan look over plans for the cleanup and restoration of the SIlver Bow Creek corridor with Julia Crain, a special projects planner with Butte-Silver Bow county's Superfund Division, June 12, 2018.
Nora Saks

This week, locals in Butte will have another chance to help design what the major creek corridors in town will look like after the Superfund cleanup is over.

The Upper Silver Bow and Blacktail Creek corridors, which run through the center of Butte, will probably look a lot different about five years from now.

The Trump administration has moved to formally replace the Clean Power Plan, an environmental regulation that former President Barack Obama once lauded as the single-most important step America has ever taken to fight climate change.

The long-anticipated proposal, called the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, would give individual states more authority to make their own plans for regulating greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Jeremy Grotbo, with Butte-Silver Bow County, points to a trail feature on a map of Silver Bow and Blacktail Creek corridors in Butte at the Community Design Workshop. August 7, 2018.
Nora Saks

Under the Superfund cleanup deal currently being negotiated for Butte, most of the historic mine waste lining the Upper Silver Bow and Blacktail Creek corridors that carve through town is slated to be removed and cleaned up.

But what these big parcels of land and water will look like, feel like, and are used for after the cleanup is over - is much more open-ended.

Dave Hutchins (L) and Daniel Hogan look over plans for the cleanup and restoration of the SIlver Bow Creek corridor with Julia Crain, a special projects planner with Butte-Silver Bow county's Superfund Division, June 12, 2018.
Nora Saks

This week, locals in Butte will have a chance to help shape the designs for what the major creek corridors in town will look like after the Superfund cleanup is over.

EPA Region 8 Administrator Doug Benevento talks to MTPR's Nora Saks in Butte.
Eric Whitney

Last summer, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt established a Superfund Task Force, and named Butte and Anaconda as top priorities for completion of Superfund cleanups.

When Pruitt resigned last month, many in Montana wondered what that would mean here.

On the first anniversary of the Superfund Task Force, I sat down in Butte with Doug Benevento, the top administrator for EPA Region 8, to talk about what changes at the top mean for Montana.

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