A public-health emergency has never been declared in Libby, Mont., where asbestos exposure from vermiculite mining has killed 200 people and sickened more than 1,000 more. But documents and emails obtained recently by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) show that in 2002, the U.S. EPA was primed to declare such an emergency — before being talked out of it by top-level officials at the Office of Management and Budget. A public-health emergency declaration would have authorized extensive cleanup and increased health services in Libby, which the feds feared might — gasp! — encourage other asbestos-ridden places to demand the same. Libby has been declared a Superfund site, and vermiculite miner W.R. Grace will pay Superfund cleanup costs, but the effects of asbestos contamination still linger. Baucus is “not going to rest” until a public-health emergency is called: “It’s a huge disrespect for the law and it’s a bigger disrespect for the people of Libby,” he says. “It’s hard to even fathom.”