Tester Sticks Up for Montana Communities, Demands Cleanup of Superfund Sites

Senator to Pruitt: Talk is Cheap, People and Resources are Important

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester today brought the urgent issues facing communities like Butte, Anaconda and Libby to the attention of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt during today’s Senate Appropriations Hearing on the agency’s 2019 budget request.

Despite Tester’s concerns with Pruitt’s highly publicized controversies and investigations, Tester used the hearing to focus on critical issues affecting Montana communities like the pressing need to clean up the state’s 17 superfund sites.

“There are plenty of things in this EPA, under your administration, that I could be critical of-trust me,” Tester told Pruitt. “But you have made a commitment to clean up Superfund sites and I just want to make sure that we get on the same page and work together to clean those sites up because I agree with you on that and I think it’s really, really important.”

Tester asked Pruitt why the Administration’s proposed budget cuts funding to Superfund sites despite the agency’s own admission that they lack necessary resources. Tester pointed to a recent Inspector General’s report that cited understaffing issues in Butte-a site the EPA just put on its shortlist for intense, immediate action in April-as a prime example.

“How are these sites going to get cleaned up when even high-priority sites with real threats to human health and water quality can’t get the resources they need for even a basic risk assessment?” Tester asked Pruitt. “It takes more than just putting them on a list. They’ve got to have the manpower, they’ve got to have the resources or it doesn’t happen, they just get on a list and that’s a far as it goes.”

Tester acknowledged Pruitt’s commitment to increasing public input and transparency regarding Superfund cleanup efforts but noted that a court order sealing Butte and Anaconda’s consent decree negotiations directly contradicted these stated goals. So, Tester asked Pruitt point-blank to make these negotiations public.

“The people in these communities don’t know the broad strokes of what the cleanup’s going to look like. So, the transparency hasn’t happened, and the public input hasn’t happened,” Tester told Pruitt. “Are you willing to ask the court for permission to share at least an overview of the proposed clean up actions with the public? Because they’ve got to know what’s going on with the decrees in order to give adequate input on how to move forward.”

Tester has waged a relentless campaign to clean up all of Montana’s 17 Superfund sites, including Butte, Anaconda, Columbia Falls, Libby and Troy. He successfully defended against a proposed 30% cut in funding for the Superfund program this year and called on the new regional EPA administrator to hold public listening sessions in Superfund communities across Montana.

Tester was recently instrumental in getting the EPA to identify three of Montana’s biggest Superfunds sites for priority action, including Butte and Anaconda, which were put on the EPA’s shortlist for immediate, intense action in April and Libby, which was put on the EPA’s community redevelopment list in January.