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Delegation weighs in

| September 30, 2005 12:00 AM

Montana voters have to be pleased with the responsive nature of our congressional delegation.

For years, U.S. Sen. Max Baucus and Conrad Burns have worked hard representing every inch of a pretty darn big state. Rep. Denny Rehberg, as he has gained experience and access within the House of Representatives has joined right with our two senators.

A good example is this week, Rehberg is asking Secretary of Human Health Services Mike Leavitt, who has been to Libby as EPA administrator, to investigate the latest actions of W.R. Grace and their medical plan administrator Health Network of America.

Rehberg called HNA's recent letters to the 870 Libby residents informing them that they may not be as sick as originally thought "insensitive" and a "slap in the face to a community already reeling from the effects of asbestos exposure."

Rehberg wrote: "It's time to do what is right by the people of Libby and make the health of that community a top priority of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services."

The representative wants an investigation into HNA's actions.

Baucus, who has been threatening to introduce legislation, did so this week requiring Grace to establish a $250 million trust fund for Libby victims' medical care. The trust fund must be established before Grace is allowed to complete its bankruptcy proceedings.

The senator also criticized Grace for the recent letters announcing the medical plan scale-back. He said it has been expected for a long time and accused the multi-national corporation of "trying to skirt their responsibility to the people of Libby."

Burns hasn't weighed in publicly, yet, on this latest issue, but he has been working hard to help the Center for Asbestos Related Disease. Along with the other members of the delegation he has kept the pressure on the EPA to keep the Libby cleanup a priority issue.

All three members of the Montana delegation are representing us well on this issue, and others that don't see a lot of ink. — Roger Morris