Congressman in town to discuss mines, jobs

Rep. Greg Gianforte, recently elected to complete the term of now Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, made a stop in Libby last week to attend a presentation given by Hecla Montana officials on the status of the company’s current mine projects in northwest Montana.

Hecla vice president for external affairs Luke Russell gave a short presentation on the company’s three northwest Montana projects: the Montanore and Rock Creek mines, which are currently in the permitting phase, and the Troy Mine, which is beginning reclamation this summer.

During his presentation, Russell noted the regulatory environment and legal hurdles being faced by Hecla, and by other natural resource industries throughout Montana, creates serious delays in bringing such projects to bear.

Gianforte lamented the use of the Equal Access to Justice Act by what he labeled “environmental extremists,” as a way to delay or even prevent natural resource projects, and also as a funding mechanism to support their continued obstructionist aims.

Gianforte said he was making stops around Montana to discuss local needs and find ways to help rectify the problems being faced by Montanans “on the ground.” He said he doesn’t yet have a specific proposal to fix the EAJA, but is intent upon working to fix the problems with what he said was a well-intentioned law that has been used by non-governmental organizations to “shut down every project.”

Gianforte said his appointment to the House Natural Resources and Government Oversight committees positions him to help solve the current regulatory and legal problems.