141 Assembly Members tell GE: Bring Good Things to Life — Complete the Hudson River Cleanup
NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
Steven Englebright 4th A.D.
Chair, Environmental Conservation Committee
Albany Office: Room 621, Legislative Office Building, Albany, NY 12248
District Office: 149 Main Street, East Setauket, NY 11733
CONTACT: Elizabeth Nostrand (518) 455-4804 For Immediate Release: July 15, 2015
141 Assembly Members tell GE: Bring Good Things to Life —
Complete the Hudson River Cleanup
Group also calls on Gov. Cuomo to take the lead in
keeping GE accountable for remediating New York's largest Superfund site
“Nothing less will protect the Hudson River and the people of this great state”
Assembly Member Steven Englebright (D-Setauket), Chairman of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, today released a bi-partisan letter signed by 141 Assembly Members urging General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt to continue his company’s Hudson River PCB cleanup operations until it fulfills its responsibility to "make the river a safe and usable resource" once again.
A second letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls on the governor to “use the state’s full legal power and the authority and influence of your office” to urge GE to remove more PCBs from the Hudson. (See both letters, attached.)
While the Assembly letters praise GE for the high-quality cleanup it’s done so far, they question the removal of multi-million dollar dredging infrastructure currently on site, urging GE to continue dredging so that more of the PCBs it dumped are removed, and the river’s recovery advances more swiftly:
"Simply put, the current cleanup without further action is simply not acceptable, so we call on you to do all that is within your power to remedy this situation by dredging additional toxic hotspots in the river."
GE dumped millions of pounds of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) – which the letters note have been linked with "cancer, neurological and hormonal disorders, and cognitive disorders in children" – into the river from two factories along the river north of Albany from the 1940s through the 1970s.
An EPA-mandated clean-up by GE started in 2009 and will end later this year, but federal studies show that "hundreds of acres of contaminated sediments" will be left behind if GE stops its dredging operation, the letters state.
"The People’s House has spoken with a unified voice calling on GE to complete the Hudson River cleanup currently underway," said Chairman Englebright. "The opportunity to remove remaining PCBs now, while the infrastructure and dredging operations are still in place, makes economic sense for both GE and NYS taxpayers."
The letters list the "very real economic" harms GE’s PCBs have caused, including heavy restrictions on consumption of Hudson River fish; the blocking of the Champlain Canal, an important shipping channel to commercial traffic; and damage to recreation and tourism.
State Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake), in whose Assembly district the GE plants are located notes that 72 municipalities and counties along the 200 mile stretch polluted by PCBs have issued Resolutions urging GE to continue its cleanup. "The remaining PCBs in the Hudson River impair our economy by continuing to cause damage to this natural asset that draws tourists and families to our region," said Assemblywoman Woerner. "We’ve made progress cleaning the river but there is more for GE to do. Our children must be able to enjoy healthy and safe summer days, fishing and swimming in the river. I will accept nothing less than a clean Hudson River for all families and future generations to enjoy."
Several groups that advocated for the initial cleanup have formed the Campaign for a Cleaner Hudson, which is working with elected officials, businesses, fishing and boating groups, and individuals along the river to urge GE to do more. Lead members of the Campaign for a Cleaner Hudson said they welcomed the Assembly’s letters as a vital piece of the group’s efforts and again called on GE to keep its operation going.
"The New York State Assembly has demonstrated strong leadership on this issue by standing up for the public’s interest. The people of the Hudson Valley and New York State deserve nothing less than a clean, healthy and economically productive Hudson River, but that’s not what we will be left with when GE finishes the narrowly defined EPA-mandated cleanup. The company still faces significant legal and financial responsibilities for the damages its pollution has caused. As part of that obligation, GE should do additional dredging for the health of the river and to clear a commercial shipping channel its pollution has hindered for decades." – Ned Sullivan, President, Scenic Hudson
"If GE doesn’t take this opportunity to finish the job and do it right, future generations of New Yorkers will be forced to continue bearing the costs and burdens of its toxic legacy in the Hudson," said Dan Raichel, a staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
"The Assembly’s letters shows that there is broad support for finally cleaning up this Superfund site in the most complete way possible," said Paul Gallay, President of Riverkeeper. "CEO Immelt must listen to the people’s representatives and keep his company on the job."
"We’ve lived too long with a river that can’t be used the way it should," said Peter Gross, Executive Director of Clearwater. "While the damage GE did to the Hudson can’t be forgotten, if it sticks with its dredging, it can be known as the company that did the right thing and cleaned up its mess."
Chairman Englebright’s views concur, "This is truly a legacy issue for both GE and the citizens of New York," he said. "The decision now to do the right thing can bring the Hudson River back to life."