Politicians are Selling Out Lincoln County

The Montana Constitution guarantees citizens the right to a clean and healthful environment

By Jim Vashro and Chris Servheen

Teck coal mines in British Columbia are dumping selenium into Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River. Excess selenium produces deformities and death in fish and is a human health concern. Cutthroat below one mine are missing gill covers and numbers have dropped 90%. Koocanusa burbot are almost gone. “Trophy” rainbows seldom make it over 5 pounds. Mountain whitefish in the river have decreased 50%. 

Federal, Montana and tribal representatives worked for five years to customize selenium standards for the Kootenai drainage, meeting over 40 times with nine public meetings. The standards were accepted by the Montana Board of Environmental Review and EPA. Four of nine fish species sampled in Koocanusa exceed these selenium limits. Some politicians now claim that selenium limits were set too fast, the science is incomplete. Mostly it appears they chose to not attend the meetings. 

Teck has drawn Canadian pollution fines. The Chinese government owns 10% of Teck and a Chinese official is on Teck’s Board. Most of Teck’s mined coal is shipped to Asia. Now, Lincoln County commissioners and some Montana legislators want to allow more selenium from this Canadian mine into Montana waters. The Montana Board of Environmental Review, newly appointed by Gov. Greg Gianforte, asked EPA to relax selenium standards, astoundingly using a letter drafted by Teck. The BC Premier resigned to join the Teck Board. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined an IJC Committee to study transboundary pollution. Montana has no jobs threatened by the selenium limits, all we get is more pollution. 

Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River are vital to Lincoln County’s economy and lifestyle. Just as important, the Montana Constitution guarantees citizens the right to a clean and healthful environment. Lincoln County deserves no less. 

Jim Vashro and Chris Servheen
Montana Wildlife Federation

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.