DOJ: News Release

Bankruptcy Court Approves Agreement on ASARCO Hazardous Waste Sites

$100 million will fund cleanup of smelting site in East Helena

HELENA – Today the Judge in the ASARCO bankruptcy case in Corpus Christi announced that he is approving the Montana Custodial Trust Settlement, along with four other environmental settlements affecting other states and the United States. This settlement, which was signed by the State of Montana, the United States and ASARCO in March, will provide $138 million to be paid into a custodial trust to clean up industrial and mining sites in Montana that are owned by ASARCO, LLC.

The settlement provides $100 million for cleanup of groundwater and soils contaminated by decades of lead smelting in East Helena. The settlement also provides funding for the cleanup of additional ASARCO-owned property at the Upper Blackfoot River ($10 million), at Iron Mountain near Superior ($1.9 million) and at the Black Pine/Combination Mining District site near Philipsburg ($17.5 million). The trust will also get $8.9 million to cover administrative costs.

Along with the settlement payments, the trust will get all of the ASARCO-owned lands associated with these sites. Once cleaned up, these lands could be sold to obtain additional clean up money or could be dedicated to public purposes.

“This means cleaner and healthier land for future generations and high-paying jobs for a dozen or more years,” Governor Brian Schweitzer said. “This is $100 million that will stay in Montana and roll over on our Main Streets five or six times.”

The $138 million cleanup will be directed by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, the Montana Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Forest Service. In addition, the State of Montana will receive a $5 million unsecured claim for natural resource damages occurring in East Helena and 232 acres of land in the East Helena area to be used for public recreation and wildlife habitat.

“This has been a long road, but we’re almost to the end. In the near future, we can look forward to East Helena having cleaner soil and water, and turning that land back into productive use.” Bullock said. “Thanks to this settlement and to the efforts of all the agencies involved in this cleanup, the claims we submitted against ASARCO will be paid in full.”

$138 million will be paid in full because it is for the cleanup of ASARCO-owned property and is considered an administrative cost of the bankrupt, which has priority. The other claims in the bankruptcy, which are unsecured, may not be paid in full. At this point, it is estimated that they could receive at least 75 cents on the dollar.

This custodial trust settlement is in addition to earlier settlements with ASARCO. In 2008, the parties announced a $37 million settlement to remove the aging Mike Horse Dam on the Upper Blackfoot River and restore contaminated streams near the dam, and an $8.1 million settlement to fund the cleanup of the Barker Hughesville mine site in Judith Basin and Cascade Counties. There was also a $2.2 million state settlement for portions of the Iron Mountain site not owned by ASARCO.

“These settlement funds will be invested in a cleaner, healthier future for Montana’s lands and its citizens,” said Richard Opper, Director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. “We look forward to using these funds to help convert contaminated areas into productive, sustainable landscapes.”

This year the court also approved a $13.3 million settlement to clean up yards and other contaminated properties in East Helena that are not owned by ASARCO.

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