Court sides with Montana in Hecla Mining Pollution Case
AP reported that a Montana State District Court Judge Mike Menahan in Helena has sided with state environmental regulators who are using a law that provides protection from repeat polluters against an Idaho based Hecla Mining Company, which is pursuing at the Rock Creek Mine near Noxon and the Montanore Mine near Libby. Judge said that Hecla Mining and Chief Executive Officer Mr Phillips Baker Jr are subject to the state’s bad actor law that blocks individuals and companies who don’t clean up their old mines from starting new ones. The ruling means the court has jurisdiction over the company and Mr Baker, but it did not address the merits of the case.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality filed a bad actor lawsuit against Hecla and Baker in 2018 over the Pegasus damages, saying the company could have to reimburse the state for past pollution cleanups if it wants to pursue the new mines. The suit is supported by the Fort Belknap Indian Community, environmental organizations and a group of traditionalists from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
Montana is one of many states with bad actor statues that let state environmental agencies consider a company or individual’s environmental record in deciding whether to grant permits. It was passed by the Montana Legislature in 1989 and expanded in 2001 to apply to company executives. The law has been enforced once before, in 2008
The two copper and silver mines would tunnel beneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness. They’ve been stalled for years as environmentalists repeatedly sued over concerns the mines would harm area rivers and wildlife including bull trout and grizzly bears.