Tester to EPA Administrator: This Budget Fails Butte

Senator Holds EPA Administrator Accountable for Attempt to Cut Over $300 Million from Superfund Sites

(U.S. Senate)-U.S. Senator Jon Tester today held Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt accountable for his attempt to slash $326 million from Superfund cleanup sites like Butte’s Berkley Pit, the former Columbia Falls Aluminum Company site and the city of Libby.

Tester told Pruitt during a Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing that the proposed budget fails to meet the EPA’s basic obligation to communities impacted by harmful pollution. Tester specifically highlighted the urgent need for the EPA to address the Berkley Pit-a 1,780-foot deep former copper strip mine now filled with poisonous water.

“Butte, America has a pit a mile long and a mile wide that has been full of toxic water,” Tester told Pruitt. “You told me that you are going to punish bad actors. It is your job to hold these bad actors accountable and make sure they come to the table with a wallet that has money in it, and the EPA must oversee the cleanup. Tell me how this budget meets this core mission?”

Pruitt defended the Administration’s decision to cut nearly 30 percent of Superfund cleanup funding from the EPA. Tester vowed to fight to restore the cuts during the coming weeks and months as the Senate Appropriations Committee sets 2018 funding levels.

Tester secured a commitment from Pruitt that if insufficient resources were limiting the EPA’s ability to clean up Superfund sites, Pruitt would face the Committee again.

Tester also raised concerns with Pruitt over the lack of community input during Superfund negotiations between the EPA and companies responsible for the pollution.

“The EPA consistently goes into negotiations with these companies and the local community is never told what is going on,” Tester said. “They are left out in the cold. Can you give me assurance that it is not business as usual and folks will know what is going on during these negotiations?”

Pruitt agreed to work with Tester to increase transparency during Superfund negotiations.

Tester last year helped push to make consent decree negotiations on the Butte Superfund cleanup open to the public.

The EPA’s proposed budget to Congress includes a $326 million cut to Superfund operations, a 28 percent decrease from 2017. The proposed cut includes a $203 million cut specific to cleanup efforts.

Montana has 17 sites on the National Priorities list eligible for Superfund support, including the Upper Clark Fork Site near Missoula-one of the largest in the nation.