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Good timing

| March 15, 2005 11:00 PM

U.S. Sen. Max Baucus' proposal that W.R. Grace be forced to create $250 million medical trust for the Libby asbestos victims is big.

Before the nay-sayers and political types get ahead of themselves: Congress can pass law after law dealing with individuals or companies in bankruptcy until they are blue in the face. It won't matter much to those cases already pending an outcome - such as Grace.

It's that separation of powers thing and more.

But the Baucus proposal will carry considerable weight with the U.S. Department of Justice who is prosecuting W.R. Grace for the criminal charges against employees, former employees and the company in attempting to cover up the health dangers posed by the asbestos-contaminated vermiculite mined, milled and exported from Libby.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is presently collecting names and addresses from local people requesting notification of case events in United States vs. W.R. Grace, et al. In addition, the U.S. Attorney is creating a data base of victims in the Libby-Troy area. That includes economic as well as health victims.

This information will be available if the Grace trial is seen to a conclusion and the company found guilty. Then there will be a fine, or if the two parties reach an agreement ahead of time - avoiding a trial and verdict - the federal attorneys have the basis for a settlement, including the Baucus proposal for a medical trust.

The community's chance for a medical trust, and possible research monies, is better in criminal proceedings than the bankruptcy court where we would be standing in line with the likes of Chase Manhattan Bank and other creditors.

Montana's senior senator has helped us gain considerable standing, and he has identified a truly viable source of funding for the creation of a much needed medical trust. Something that has been elusive for the past five years. - Roger Morris