EPA decision requires thorough investigation

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We have a legal problem that political solutions won’t fix.

The Record of Decision (ROD) for the Libby Asbestos Superfund site lays financial liability on every property owner in the site for future removals in certain conditions.

We identified the problem in 2009. The Environmental Protection Agency, its Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the Lincoln County Commission, its County Attorney, its Board of Health (BOH) and signatory City governments were alerted to your legal problem. They ignored it.

If you own property in the Superfund site, you have a legal problem. If you have bought or sold property since the ROD was approved by these agencies in Feb. 2016 without disclosing the future liabilities, you have a legal problem.

This is affecting real estate sales, which is affecting property values, which is affecting tax revenue. The accumulated wealth we have in our property is being drained out of our economy while certain political figures get rich.

EPA’s law enforcement arm, the OIG, has refused to investigate. Commissioner Mark Peck claims there is a Federal investigation, but he can’t talk about it. The State Attorney General refuses to investigate unless requested by the County Attorney’s Office, who is the prime suspect in alleged criminal activity which allowed the ROD to move forward without giving property owners the information needed to give “informed consent” to accept liability in perpetuity.

The BOH influenced this community to accept the ROD while our legal counsel was seemingly being paid by EPA.

The OIG does not have the authority to investigate this issue.

First, because they were alerted to the possibility that those payments would be problematic before any payments occurred, OIG is guilty of aiding and abetting any crime that they could investigate.

Second, this issue goes beyond the EPA’s involvement. Deputy County Attorney Allan Payne was involved in more than just the BOH approval of the ROD and education of the public. A true, thorough investigation into EPA payments to the County Attorney’s Office is going to necessarily probe every action the Deputy County Attorney took in his short tenure in Libby. The BOH, the City election fraud case, the City Groundwater settlement, the Stinger Welding debacle with all of the accompanying legal wrangling — everything.

But, an investigation can only occur if our local government agencies will request it, and they are all in this up to their necks. Can they be expected to request an investigation that may open them up to lawsuits by exposing their culpability?

Frankly, I don’t know if there is a way out of this trap.

—D.C. Orr,

Libby

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