COLUMBIA, Md. (Legal Newsline) - A Maryland-based company at the center of thousands of asbestos-related claims announced this week a proposed $19.5 million settlement has been reached between it and those sickened by exposure at a former plant in Montana.

On Tuesday, W. R. Grace and Co. said agreements in principle had been reached among itself, supporters of its joint plan of reorganization, BNSF Railway, several insurance companies, and representatives of those asbestos claimants in Libby, Mont.

The agreements in principle are subject to approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, the company said.

Pursuant to the agreements, the objections to the company's joint plan by the Libby claimants and the railroad both would be settled and those parties would forego any additional appeals to the plan, the company said.

"I want to thank everyone who worked so hard to bring this settlement together," Fred Festa, Grace's Chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

Among the items covered in the agreements is a requirement for Grace to turn the currently Grace-operated Libby Medical Program over to a locally administered trust, and to fund the trust with $19.5 million.

Grace began the Libby Medical Program in 2000 and has spent more than $20 million on the health care of the participants over the last 11 years, it said.

Once the trust assumes responsibility for the Libby Medical Program, Grace will no longer have any operational, funding or other responsibility for the program, it said.

The company said the settlements involving the railroad, its insurers and the Libby claimants will provide the Libby claimants with additional money.

Those payments, it said, are not affected by the Grace-Libby agreement regarding the medical program's responsibilities and would start shortly after the joint plan becomes effective.

In 2001, Grace filed for protection under Chapter 11.

Its joint plan for reorganization was approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in January 2011.

On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court in Delaware issued an order denying all appeals of the confirmation order and affirming the company's plan in its entirety.

Grace, a supplier of catalysts and other specialty materials, is based in Columbia, Md., but has operations in more than 40 countries.

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