Montana Public Radio

Libby Montana

McGill Hall at the University of Montana.
Edward O'Brien / Montana Public Radio

A campuswide meeting to discuss the decision to abruptly close a busy University of Montana building for the rest of spring semester was peppered with flashes of anger, anxiety and even moments of empathy Friday.

The town of Libby.
courtesy

Montana’s Supreme Court has appointed six more judges to the state’s year-old asbestos claims court.

It’s been nearly 20 years since the Libby asbestos disaster hit national news, but many Montanans affected by it are still fighting for reparations in the courts, with no end in sight.

Downtown Libby, MT.
libbymt.com

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to hand off long-term management of the Libby Superfund site to the state in 2020. A state advisory team is getting ready to budget for unforeseen cleanup and monitor the site.

State Rep. Steve Gunderson says the Libby Asbestos Superfund Advisory Team’s goal is to ensure the EPA’s remediation plan lasts into the future, and that homeowners won’t have to pay for any future cleanup.

Montana's outdoor recreation activities.
Outdoor Recreation And Montana's Economy report, Headwaters Economics.

A growing set of business owners, non-profits and agencies in Montana are trying to expand what we think of when we talk about the economic value of the outdoors here.

Marne Hayes is the executive director for Business for Montana’s Outdoors, a group that advocates for preserving Montana’s outdoor heritage. She says Montana itself — its rivers, forests and wide open spaces — offers a competitive advantage for attracting new businesses and a talented workforce to Montana.

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.

BNSF Railway is promoting Libby as an area ripe for new rail-reliant development. The Kootenai Business Park is one of three industrial sites nationwide BNSF is spotlighting this year.

BNSF’s Certified Sites program identifies and promotes areas it deems “shovel-ready” for new businesses to set up shop. The designation is based on an evaluation of environmental standards, available utilities and existing infrastructure. It’s meant to lower risk for companies looking to develop quickly in an area that can speedily ship goods to market.

The Wigwam Fire burning near Ennis on Aug. 15.
Inciweb

Rain in western Montana Monday did little to slow fire growth across the state.

"Well it’s a mixed blessing," said Jay Nichols, a spokesperson assigned to the Monument and Wigwam Fires burning south of Ennis. "So obviously wind isn’t a good thing, rain’s a good thing, but I don’t know that it will be a substantial amount of rain."

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.

Montana Wildfire Roundup For July 30, 2018

Jul 30, 2018
The Lee Creek fire burning near Lolo Hot Springs was spotted July 29, 2018 from a Forest Service detection flight.
Lolo National Forest

 


Updated and corrected: 5:35 p.m., 07/30/18

Twenty fires have flared up in the Kootenai National Forest, all caused by lightning from weekend storms.

Most of the fires are only burning a few acres, but the Davis Fire is now reported at 1,000 acres in size, according to a post on the Kootenai National Forest Facebook page. A fire spokesperson told MTPR Monday afternoon that the Davis fire was only 50 acres.

A stack of logs.
(PD)

A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of an environmental group challenging a timber and forest thinning project in the Kootenai National Forest.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that that Forest Service, “acted arbitrarily and capriciously,” by failing to determine whether the East Reservoir Project will result in new roads that will exceed a cap on them meant to preserve grizzly bear habitat.

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