For years, the town of Libby, Montana, has had to contend with the disastrous health effects of an asbestos mine located nearby. It has sought funding for its many health care programs to attend to residents with asbestos-related diseases, and with a new presidential administration, Libby could get more assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Lisa Jackson, the hand-picked nominee to head the EPA, has stated that she will visit Libby pending her confirmation. During the visit, she would make an assessment of the town and meet with EPA workers and residents. She would report back her findings to Senator Max Baucus, D-Montana. Her findings could lead to a reevaluation of having the site declared a public health emergency. The EPA in 2002 refused to list the town as a public health emergency site, and Libby was denied the funding that would have resulted from such a ruling.
Then head of the EPA, Christine Todd Whitman, assured Lincoln County commissioners that Libby would be considered to be declared a public health emergency, but the matter was never brought up again after Whitman returned to Washington D.C. Senator Baucus has long been a proponent for Libby, Montana, and helping the town’s residents get the funding they need for their health care programs. In a statement on January 14, 2008, Senator Baucus said, “Several years ago, I made a promise to the people of Libby that I would do all I could to help them.” He also noted, “I look forward to working together with Ms. Jackson, and will make sure that she and the EPA do right by the people of Libby.” Libby, Montana, was listed among the Superfund sites in 2002 because the incidence of asbestos related diseases in the town is between 40 and 60 times higher than the national average from contamination of the abandoned W.R. Grace vermiculite mine.