The state of Montana and the W.R. Grace Co. have reached a tentative agreement regarding the asbestos cleanup operation in Libby, Montana. As reported here yesterday, W.R. Grace will be paying the federal government $250 million as part of its bankruptcy proceedings; the $5.1 million additional payout to Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality is a separate arrangement. The Department of Environmental Quality is currently soliciting public comment on the settlement agreement. Many in Montana felt disregarded by the EPA-Grace settlement which was reached in early April and approved in early June of 2008. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer announced that the state desired to hear the views of the community, and that there was a need to adequately fund cleanup operations at the state level.
Any funds received through the Department of Environmental Quality’s claim would be used at the Libby cleanup site for operation and maintenance of state personnel and equipment. Richard Opper, director of the Montana DEQ, said “Since Grace is already paying $250 million for cleanup costs here, we were not going to get a lot of additional funding through the bankruptcy. We are pleased that we were able to get at least a significant sum to help ensure that there is adequate funding to do this cleanup right.” The state’s $5.1 million would be added to another $11 million already set aside in the $250 million deal for operations and maintenance. The state anticipates receiving interest income in the interim, as the state will not actually lay out funds for operations and maintenance until the end of the cleanup process. The $5.1 million covers residential and commercial cleanup in Libby and adjoining Troy, Montana. Some special areas, including the Zonolite Mine and surrounding areas, in addition to Rainey Creek and the Kootenai River, will be addressed in separate negotiations between Montana and the W.R. Grace Co. The comments period ends on July 7 and citizens wishing to opine about the settlement should contact the DEQ’s Superfund information line at 1-800-246-8198, or visit the DEQ web site.