Tribes and conservation groups challenge DEQ to end ‘bad actors’ lawsuit
The state environmental agency has dropped a lawsuit against a mining executive once involved in a company that left taxpayers liable for millions
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
By Amanda Eggert
Montana Free Press
The Fort Belknap Indian community and a coalition of nonprofit environmental groups said this week they plan to sue Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality for failing to meet its obligations under the Metal Mine. Complaint Act. In a filing Aug. 2 in Lewis and Clark County District Court, the groups said they were ‘disappointed’ by DEQ’s recent decision not to call Hecla chairman Phillips Baker, Jr. a ‘bad actor’ for not cleaning up the Zortman-Landusky gold mine when he was vice -president of Pegasus Gold. Pegasus filed for bankruptcy in 1998, leaving the state with an acid mine drainage cleanup effort that is expected to continue for generations. The agency’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit to appoint Hecla and Baker as ‘bad actors’ means Hecla won’t have to repay the state for the tens of millions of dollars it spent cleaning up the Zortman-Landusky mine in north-central Montana before to be able to move forward with two silver and copper projects. mines in northwest Montana.
In the inadequate infrastructure bill, abandoned #Mining The cleaning program is a silver lining – by @dominguez_raquehttps://t.co/VCbcyXZ6i3 @PLANevada @AmigosBravos1 @MTEIC @SJCAlliance @idconservation @INFORMining
— Earthworks (@Earthworks) August 4, 2021
“It is the responsibility of DEQ and the Gianforte administration to uphold the law and not allow Hecla Mining and Baker to profit from new mines while the Fort Belknap Indian community and other communities in Montana continue to address ongoing mining pollution,” Werk said. “Their decision to waive law enforcement is wrong, plain and simple.” Hecla and DEQ did not immediately respond to Montana Free Press’s request for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Billings native Amanda Eggert covers environmental issues for MTFP. Amanda is a graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism and has written for Outside magazine and Outlaw Partners. At Outlaw Partners, she led the coverage of the bi-weekly newspaper Explore Big Sky. Contact Amanda at [email protected]
Note: This story was originally published on Montana Free Press. It is released under a Creative Commons license.
Montana Free Press: Fort Belknap Tribes File Lawsuit to Protect Water and Land (April 7, 2021)