For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


“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.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight 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