EPA Scuttled Libby Emergency Declaration

WASHINGTON (AP) — Documents show officials with the Environmental Protection Agency prepared in April 2002 to declare a public health emergency over asbestos contamination in Libby, Mont., but changed their minds around the same time they met with the White House.

The documents were obtained from the EPA and released Wednesday by U.S. Sen. Max Baucus of Montana. The documents show agency officials were prepared to make the declaration, which would have led to more extensive cleanup and health protections.

But the agency eventually decided against it, instead figuring out another way to order removal of asbestos from the attics of residents.

Vermiculite from a now-closed Libby mine contained tremolite asbestos, which has been linked to more than 200 deaths in the town.