Investors, Boaters Urge GE to Finish Cleanup of PCBs It Dumped

 

The Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment and the Hudson River Boat & Yacht Club Association both released letters this week calling on General Electric to continue cleaning up PCBs it dumped in the Hudson River beyond the end of this year.

After an EPA-mandated partial cleanup, GE now plans to end its dredging operation north of Albany this fall and has already begun to dismantle part of its multi-million dollar Fort Edward, NY facility and sell off barges used in the cleanup.

The EPA designated the river as a Superfund site in 1984, seven years after GE was ordered to stop dumping toxic PCBs into the Hudson from two manufacturing plants north of Albany. GE dumped millions of pounds of PCBs – polychlorinated biphenyls – into the river from the 1940s through the 1970s.

GE plans to end its cleanup, even though new evidence released in May of this year by federal officials shows that the EPA grossly miscalculated the amount of the PCBs in the Hudson River 13 years ago when designing the current cleanup. Significant PCB pollution will remain in the river if GE leaves, making the river’s fish dangerous to eat for generations longer than expected.

“This facility needs to remain open until GE mitigates the damage it has caused, or our river will remain sick for generations to come,” wrote Scott Croft, president of the Hudson River Boat & Yacht Club Association, in his letter to Cuomo. HRBYCA represents 3,000 boating families from 33 local boat clubs along the Hudson.

“New York State taxpayers should not be on the hook for cleaning up the remaining PCB contamination…,” according to HRBYCA’s letter. The letter also noted that it is “disingenuous to believe GE has no duty to restore what it has damaged” in the Champlain Canal, which is contaminated by PCBs.

The letter from the CRI—an alliance of Roman Catholic institutional investors primarily located throughout the New York Metropolitan Area—calls on GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt to commit to “fully complete the cleanup of the Hudson River.”

The Tri-State Coalition letter, signed by 30 separate groups and Mary Beth Gallagher, the coalition’s acting director, calls on GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt to commit to Hudson-C-07.1-xsm (1)“fully complete the cleanup of the Hudson River” to address the “material risk” that remaining PCB-pollution presents to their investments in the company. The Coalition has pressured GE to appropriately clean up the river since the early 1990s, when it filed shareholder proposals calling for disclosure on the costs associated with delaying cleanup that finally began in 2009.

The group notes that “the perception that GE is attempting to avoid responsibility by failing to adequately address the full scope of the rehabilitation could leave the company vulnerable to reputational risk as a bad actor….” Investor groups in the Tri-State Coalition include the Maryknoll Sisters; the Dominican Friars; and Mercy Investment Services, Inc.

The investors and boaters join 75 Hudson River municipalities, including the City of Yonkers and Albany, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Saratoga, Ulster and Westchester counties; 141 State Assembly Members and 25 State Senators; the region’s major environmental groups; the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association and thousands of residents who live along the Hudson.

Residents along the Hudson from New York City to Saratoga County held candlelight vigils along the river on July 23 to highlight the need for GE to keep its cleanup going.

The Tri-State Coalition also urged GE to take four actions in response to its letter. They are:

  • “Enter into a voluntary agreement with state and federal authorities to complete a more extensive cleanup and restoration of the 40 mile stretch in the Upper Hudson, including dredging the navigational channel to allow full use of the River by commercial shipping vessels and ensuring thorough remediation of the floodplains and backwaters;
  • Undertake additional consultation with the Federal Hudson River Natural Resource Trustees, impacted municipalities, and community groups;
  • Come to an amicable agreement with concerned parties so as to avoid additional costly and burdensome litigation on these issues; and
  • Create a plan for and firm commitment to restoration of the Hudson River in order to return the River to its full health and value as a natural and economic resource.”

Visit the Campaign for a Cleaner Hudson at cleanerhudson.org for more information.

Press Contacts: Toni Martin, Clearwater, 845-265-8080, Ext. 7112;  Althea Mullarkey, Scenic Hudson, 845-473-4440 ext. 272; Cliff Weathers, Riverkeeper, 914-478-4501, Ext. 239
Joe Rappaport, Campaign for a Cleaner Hudson, 646-284-1078

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