Business leaders in our sister Superfund toxic waste site—the town of Libby—are understandably tired of hearing what sometimes seems like a constant media drumbeat about their plight (see “Exploiting Libby” in this week’s issue).

But there’s only one sure way to stop the publicity: finish cleaning up the town. When that happens, there won’t be anything for the media to cover, and Libby’s economy will finally stand a chance of recovering.

To that end, we’re watching what’s happening in the nation’s capital this week. The Senate is supposed to vote on whether to reinstate the “polluter pays” tax on corporations. That tax was allowed to expire in 1995, and since then, the Superfund Trust Fund has been drained, and the cost of cleaning up toxic waste sites like Libby has been shifted away from polluting corporations and onto taxpayers.

Last month, the General Accounting Office found that overall program funding has declined 35 percent since 1993. That funding shortfall is cutting the budget for Libby, meaning the cleanup there could last 12 years rather than the originally estimated five. There has been no money at all to start cleaning up neighboring Troy.

Doing dirty work for its buddies in big business, the Bush administration has resorted to juggling accounts to give the false impression that all is well in the Superfund program.

But Libby is not fooled, and victims advocate Gayla Benefield has been enlisted in national lobbying by environmentalists to reinstate the “polluter pays” tax. Her relentless campaign to uncover W.R. Grace’s asbestos poisoning of her hometown has made her into a kind of Erin Brockovich for Montana.

“The burden of funding cleanups has fallen onto the backs of the already overburdened taxpayers,” she says. “Worst of all, polluters still aren’t paying to clean up their own messes.”

Sorry, Libby, but sounds like news to us.


Honor is one of the supposedly enduring traits, but until recently, one that we hadn’t been hearing much about. You’re supposed to honor your mother and father, of course, and judges are still called “honorable” (though they’re called plenty else outside the courtroom doors), but frankly, with an eye peeled on D.C., we thought honor was on its way out.

Until the last few weeks, that is, during which Missoula has experienced a veritable rash of scandal-faced sword-fallings.

Former UM Athletic Director Wayne Hogan took one for the team last week following the announcement of his department’s $1 million budget shortfall, and state Revenue Director Linda Francis recently resigned her post as well, putting an end to a reported chronic outburst syndrome that was apparently hell on employee morale. An honorable response to dishonorable conduct—imagine that.

Now comes the Forest Service and its apparent penchant for internet pictures of naked, umm, wilderness. Viewing such images on government property was enough to get Forester Brad Powell canned from the top post in the Northern Region late last year (and reassigned to D.C., where presumably nobody minds), but apparently none of his underlings got the memo. Now 30 Forest Service employees in Montana are facing retribution for their own Internet viewing pleasures. Can’t wait to see who takes the fall for this one. Probably some tree.

If only some of this resurgent Montana honor could be packaged and sold on the street in D.C. Or maybe they could just come and extract it. Seems it’s laying thick on the ground these days. But speaking of laying it on thick, just keep former Gov. and compulsive Bush apologist Marc Racicot (sure Marc, George wanted to go to Vietnam…never mind what he said) out of here. We don’t think he’d recognize fallen honor if it jumped up and bit him in the ass.

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