Baucus, Tester Requested EPA Involvment In Flathead County Without Speaking With County Commissioners
On March 13, Montanans heard for the first time that Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester were asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company site in Flathead County to see if it should be declared a Superfund site.
The Columbia Falls Aluminum Company site has been shuttered since 2009 and many questions and discussions have been raised over what to do to the site and whether or not there is a risk of toxic materials there. Either way, having the site declared a Superfund site will have substantial impacts to the community.
Flathead County Commissioner Cal Scott still has questions. He says he heard about the EPA request for the first time along with everyone else in Montana and claims there was no dialogue between the congressional delegation and local county commissioners. Scott says the lack of communication is "absolutely" a problem.
"I think it's important that any of our state level or federal level [representatives] should have dialogue and constant communication with the county commissioners [for the counties] in which they are seeking some type of action or resolution," Scott said.
Scott was not alone in claiming to have been left in the dark. Flathead county commissioner Pamela Holmquist could not recall any correspondence with the offices of Tester and Baucus either.
"You would think it would be more of a joint effort." said Holmquist.
Holmquist says that the closest the commissioners came to a conversation on the issue was when Hungary Horse Rep. Dee Brown discussed the issue. Even then, Holmquist couldn't recall with certainty whether or not Baucus and Tester representatives were in the same meeting.
Missoula Commissioner Michele Landquist says the lack of communication between legislative officials is a problem in Montana.
Landquist says communication between her office and the federal delegation has been fine, "they've got good local field offices and they reach out to us. And we reach out to them as needed."
Landquist primarily spoke of communications problems at the state level. For example, "Local senators or representatives that are introducing bills that haven't bothered to run it by commissioners at our level to see if those things would be beneficial to us or detrimental to us," Landquist said. "They don't meet with us before hand when they get these ideas to draft changes to the legislature."
The commissioners in Flathead county are all republicans while the Missoula area commissioners are members of the democratic party, whether or not party affiliation plays into what appears to be a problem of non-communication from the federal and state delegations is impossible to say.