Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


“Either this is the most horrific story I’ve ever heard, or these people
are completely crazy.” Thus begins Libby, Montana, an incisive and unrelenting portrayal of a
small northern mining town’s codependent and ultimately tragic 40-year relationship with the
company that sustained it.

W.R. Grace made millions from the local vermiculite mine, producing
fireproof house insulation among other products. What you learn early in the film is what town residents
didn’t discover until it was too late—that the vermiculite mined at Libby contains asbestos.
The toxic dust affected not only the men who worked at W.R. Grace, but the wives who washed their contaminated
clothing and the children who hugged their fathers’ dust-covered legs at the end of the workday.
You also learn that asbestos-laced insulation from W.R. Grace’s Libby operation can be found in
as many as 35 million American homes.

As with other hard-hitting High Plains Films documentaries, Libby,
Montana employs no voice-over narration. Instead, the story emerges through the voices of its
characters, including the EPA’s heroic, if egotistical, front-line cleanup man, Paul Peronard,
and the asbestosis victims who tell their stories, punctuated by coughs and gasps.

Equally powerful, and strangely moving, is the footage of W.R. Grace
mine manager Earl Lovick giving—or, rather, resisting—testimony in a civil trial
regarding his and his company’s responsibility for the sickness and death of hundreds of employees.
In his 70s at the time of the testimony, Lovick appears defiant yet oddly unmoored, a man faced with
the awful truth of his complicity. He himself was suffering from asbestosis when he died in 1999.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate