Tester Grills EPA on Lack of Transparency, Accountability in Butte

In letter to Administrator Regan, Senator cites community concerns over waste-in-place policy, public August 30th meeting

Following conversations with Butte residents and community leaders regarding a lack of transparency and accountability from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Senator Jon Tester today called on EPA Administrator Michael Regan to work with the Butte community to address waste-in-place concerns and to follow through on the EPA’s promise to provide public answers to Buttians in response to an August 30th public meeting. 

“The top issue I hear in Butte regarding the EPA is that there is a lack of trust and communication between the agency and the community, particularly related to waste-in-place remedies,” wrote Tester. “I would specifically like to draw your attention to a public meeting that EPA hosted in Butte on August 30th of this year… I strongly urge you to work to respond to citizen questions raised at this forum and to clarify how my constituents in Butte can get technical questions answered by your agency moving forward.”

Tester continued, “The best way to address the waste-in-place situation is by working directly with the community and reviewing options they put forward… I know that we all share the same goal of creating a lasting solution for the Butte community. It is important for EPA to engage the public, build trust in the community, and rely on sounds science.”

In October, it was announced that a Centerville neighborhood was the potential site of a waste repository to be owned by Atlantic Richfield and Butte-Silver Bow County. As Atlantic Richfield, Butte-Silver Bow County, and the EPA work to finalize potential waste repository sites for historic mining and smelting wastes contaminated with heavy metals, Tester is encouraging the EPA to consider feedback and ideas from Butte residents before impacting residential areas.

In May of this year, Tester pressed Administrator Regan on the Biden Administration’s failure to take community feedback into account when proceeding with Superfund cleanups. Tester specifically condemned the EPA’s lack of engagement with the community in Butte, which was declared a Federal Superfund Site in 1983 due to the damage caused by over a century of mining and smelting, and secured a commitment from Administrator Regan that EPA would take feedback from Butte residents into account as the Agency moves forward with cleanup efforts.

Tester has been Montana’s leading advocate for toxic-exposed communities and has kept the pressure on the Biden administration to take community feedback when working to address the lasting effects of exposure. In June of 2021, Tester pressed Administrator Regan on better asbestos regulation and the potential for an asbestos ban in light of the long-term health effects of the use of the toxic-substance in Libby.

And last May, Tester secured $15 million through his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)for 11 Montana pollution cleanup projects. Tester also secured $1.232 billion through the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) government funding package for the Superfund account to clean up sites, including Butte, Libby, Columbia Falls, and the Smurfit-Stone site near Missoula. This was a $27 million increase over FY22 funding.

Read Tester’s full letter to EPA Administrator Regan HERE.