Montana Public Radio

mining

The Kootenai River near Libby, MT.
Corin Cates-Carney / Montana Public Radio

Montana environmental regulators took the first step last week to tighten pollution rules for toxins flowing into Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River. The new rules are aimed at stemming pollution coming from British Columbia coal mines.

Talen Proposes Partial Excavation Of Colstrip Waste Ponds

Sep 22, 2020

The company that operates the Colstrip coal fired power plant is proposing to partially excavate waste ponds that have been contaminating groundwater for decades.

State regulators are now accepting comments on the plan.

Talen Energy’s report explores ways to prevent future groundwater pollution from the Units 1 and 2 coal ash ponds, which are leaking coal ash contaminants like boron and sulfate into groundwater.

The core of the Superfund deal itself, and how it proposes to solve Butte’s lingering environmental problems forever, is really important and complicated, both legally and technically. And no wonder. Three levels of government — the county, state and feds — plus a former oil company, all had to settle their differences, and agree on how to clean up, once and for all, the rest of the environmental bust left behind by Butte’s historic copper mining boom.

So today, we’re gonna try to get our arms all the way around it. And take a closer look at what’s actually in this very big deal and whether the Mining City believes that after all of its sacrifices, this is a big enough reward. This is Episode 9: Butte Never Says Die.

The operator of the Colstrip coal-fired power plant submitted its cleanup plan for parts of the plant it shuttered early this year.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality accepted Talen Energy’s remediation plan for the now-defunct Units 1 and 2 and opened up public comment on that report this week.

Sara Edinberg with DEQ says the plan inventories what’s left inside the buildings.

This culvert and forebay pictured on May 28, 2019 are part of Butte's stormwater capture and treatment system, which will be expanded and completed in the  Superfund cleanup plan.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

A final deal signed by a federal judge this week outlining cleanup of century old mining waste in Butte means there’s going to be a flurry of work happening in the center of town. 

U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon on Wednesday gave his final stamp of approval to an overarching Superfund cleanup deal for the Butte Hill and its headwater streams below.

Silver Bow Creek in Butte, Montana.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Butte’s $150 million cleanup deal is at last carved in legal stone after more than a decade of negotiations, and more than three decades on the Superfund National Priorities List.

On Wednesday, a federal district judge gave his final stamp of approval to an overarching Superfund settlement for the Butte Hill and its headwaters streams below.

Montana is getting ready to green light the proposed expansion of a waste-holding pond at a mine in south central Montana.

Environmental groups on Aug. 27 sued the Trump Administration for allegedly breaking federal law when it finalized management plans for coal rich land in eastern Montana and northern Wyoming.

The environmental groups in their lawsuit say the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to explore alternatives to strip mining or the impacts of fossil fuel combustion when it approved management plans covering the Powder River Basin.

Nathan Cook, FWP fisheries biologist, Beau Downing, Upper Clark Fork Restoration Manager with Montana's Resource Damage Program, & Alex Leone, restoration specialist with Clark Fork Coalition, scout deposits of mine waste along the upper Clark Fork River
Nick Mott / Montana Public Radio

The state started new work this week to prevent toxic metals in century-old mine waste from seeping into the Upper Clark Fork River. 

On a warm August morning, representatives of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the state’s Natural Resource Damage Program, and the nonprofit Clark Fork Coalition and I set out on a bright green raft for a float just south of Deer Lodge.

A pile of coal.
Flickr user oatsy40 (CC-BY-2)

The expansion of a British Columbia coal mine upstream of Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River will undergo review from the federal Canadian government. The decision handed down Wednesday will apply more scrutiny to the project.

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