Doug Benevento, EPA’s Region 8 Administrator for the past year and a half, is moving up. He’s taking a position as the new EPA Administrator’s senior counselor for regional management and state affairs. Which is a mouthful that means he will be one of the most powerful executives at the agency.

His work in and for Butte and Anaconda has been impressive. He gets high marks for efficiency, drive and straightforward, transparent dealing. Coming into a Superfund scenario here almost as toxic as the Berkeley Pit itself, he has made huge progress in a very short time.

It would seem that Butte and Anaconda are victims of his success in that he’s moving out of the role in which he was so successful. But he’s determined that will not be the case. He pledges to stay very much engaged with the situation here, which is in the final and critical stages of consent-decree negotiations in both towns.

All that remains to be seen, but it can’t help but be positive to have someone in top agency management who is committed to succeeding with this cleanup.

A lot of hard work remains to be done. As has become evident after agreements in principle were negotiated in Anaconda and for the Butte Hill, the devil is in the details. And the physical health and economic future of these communities depends on those details being resolved favorably and expeditiously.

First and foremost, we must have certainty that human health will be protected. That includes remediation for lead and arsenic and other contaminants of concern wherever they threaten health. And it includes the requisite studies to fully and honestly assess public health across the entire Superfund complex.

Second, the economic underpinnings of the agreement must work for everybody. Both communities need the assurance there will be money to handle any cleanup-related contingencies in the future. “In perpetuity” is a long time.

Third, both the funds and the will to restore upper Silver Bow Creek as a creek, not just a park with “water features,” must be set in stone as part of the Butte Hill consent decree.

But even as the dedicated and talented group of professionals assembled by Butte-Silver Bow, the state of Montana, EPA and Atlantic Richfield move forward with these tasks, it’s important to recognize the enormous contribution that Benevento has made here in a short time.

Thank you, Mr. Administrator. Please don’t forget the Mining City and the Smelter City. And we won’t forget you.

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