Hearing to Decide Evidence in Asbestos Case

By Beacon Staff

MISSOULA – A hearing is under way in Missoula to determine what evidence will be allowed the criminal trial against W.R. Grace & Co. over asbestos contamination in Libby.

An indictment unsealed in February 2005 charges W.R. Grace and six former executives with violating the federal Clean Air Act and obstructing an Environmental Protection Agency investigation into the asbestos contamination from a vermiculite mine. The asbestos is blamed for lung diseases that have killed hundreds and sickened hundreds more in Libby.

The issue is whether W.R. Grace and its executives knew of the health risks and tried to cover them up.

In July 2006, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy issued a number of decisions that favored Grace, but the 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals reversed those decisions.

The hearing, which started Wednesday, is scheduled to last three days.

Molloy has set the case for trial Feb. 19.

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