Commentary: Make GE extend Hudson cleanup or pay billions in fines

By Brad Hoylman, Commentary | December 13, 2015 (Times Union)

For much of the 20th century, the mighty Hudson River was a proverbial — and often literal — dumping ground of industrial waste, toxic chemicals and raw sewage. In parts of the lower Hudson, not far downriver from an automobile plant, it was said that you could tell which color the cars on the line were being painted that week by the hue of the water lapping the shoreline.

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GE still has work to do cleaning up Hudson, reputation

Gil Hawkins from the the Hudson River Fishermen's Association wrote a moving opinion piece in the Times Union this week: "Long before I knew anything about the glorious Hudson River, and long before I knew how General Electric Co. had dumped tons of toxic PCBs into the river for decades, my father took me fishing near the George Washington Bridge.
I was just 10. But I can still see the river that day, filthy with raw sewage. Only catfish and eels competed with the garbage and seaweed for our hooks. Even I could tell the Hudson had fallen on hard times.
A decade later, a few brave fishermen from the organization I now head, the Hudson River Fishermen's Association, decided to take on the industrial goliaths who had polluted our river. Soon, other groups, armed with the Clean Water Act of 1972, took up the call. The push for a cleaner Hudson was under way."  Read more here.
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Mr. Cuomo’s silence on GE

In a Times Union blog Governors Cuomo silence about GE and the unfinished job of cleaning the Hudson River is the topic: "We can’t recall anyone ever faulting Gov. Andrew Cuomo for being too nice. But for once, we’re wishing he’d play a little hardball when it comes to General Electric Co. and its cleanup of PCBs from the Hudson River.

That cleaning isn’t done, not by several miles. But you wouldn’t know it from the governor’s silence.

With considerable fanfare, GE is shutting down its six-year, billion-dollar cleanup of PCB hot spots in a stretch of the Hudson between Waterford and Fort Edward, where one of its plants dumped tons of the toxic substance for decades. GE boasts that it has fulfilled its commitment to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up one of the nation’s biggest Superfund sites."

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New York Times Editorial: "Selling Out the Hudson River"

The New York Times editorializes again on the Hudson River cleanup, this time calling on Gov. Cuomo to fight for the river:

"You would expect a polluter like General Electric to favor its interests over those of a damaged environment. But you should not expect similar behavior from the governor of New York, especially when the damage is to the Hudson River, contaminated by generations of toxic chemical dumping from G.E. factories north of Albany.

G.E. has spent the last six years and $1 billion dredging up much but not all of the toxic chemicals it put in the riverbed, and it is now is getting ready to dismantle its cleanup operation. Environmental advocates and scientists are making urgent pleas to the federal Environmental Protection Agency and to New York State to make sure G.E. does not leave before the river job is finished." Read more here

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Poughkeepsie Journal Editorial: River trustees must step up with one voice

The Poughkeepsie Journal calls on the Hudson River Trustees to be tougher in this editorial on GE's plan to dismantle its dredging facility this fall: "Taking too long to wade into a crucial battle and being too meek when they got there, supposed guardians of the Hudson River's natural resources "recommend" the federal Environmental Protection Agency stop General Electric from dismantling facilities and pulling out equipment connected to the PCB cleanup project.

That's not good enough, not even close." Read the whole editorial here.

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Questioning the cleanup: Hudson River dredging done, but PCB cleanup isn’t, groups say

Troy Record reported: "General Electric Co. is wrapping up work on its estimated $2 billion Hudson River PCB cleanup, but the job isn’t done, environmentalists say.

The global corporation has spent the past six years removing nearly 3 million cubic yards of PCB-laden sediment from a 40-mile stretch of river from Fort Edward to Troy. GE discharged PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), a suspected carcinogen, into the river from plants at Hudson Falls and Fort Edward from the 1940s to 1977.

But environmentalists, citing a recent federal study, say PCB levels were significantly higher than believed and that it will take much longer than originally projected before fish are safe for human consumption." Read more here.

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ABC News 10 Reports: EPA: GE can dismantle Hudson PCB facility as dredging wraps

ABC News 10 Reports about Thursday's news event:  "Federal regulators say they have no problem with General Electric dismantling a PCB cleanup facility as six years of Hudson River dredging wraps up.

The Environmental Protection Agency says the Fairfield, Connecticut company could use a new, temporary facility if additional dredging is required. The EPA also noted that any agreement for the company to do more isn’t in sight." Watch here.

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Federal Trustees Request EPA Postpone Demobilization of GE Facility

On behalf of the Federal Natural Resource Trustees for the Hudson River, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have submitted comments on GE’s Phase 2 Sediment Processing Facility Demobilization and Restoration Plan.

The Federal Trustees comments on the Plan reflect our overarching concern about the protectiveness of the remedy, the extended time it will take our trust resources to recover, as well as the impacts demobilization might have on restoration opportunities under the Hudson River natural resource damage assessment (NRDA).  Under federal Superfund law, the General Electric Company (GE) is responsible for both the remediation -- cleanup -- of the PCB contamination, and the restoration of the natural resources harmed by PCBs.

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Poughkeepsie Journal: "Cuomo, river trustees must team up with GE"

Here’s a confluence of interests: General Electric needs a canal, and so does New York.

But while New York is doing what it can to help GE achieve what it wants, the company seems to have no such concern for what New York needs.

GE, though, isn’t the only one at fault here. Adding to the company’s outward dismissal of its responsibility for the holdup in dredging of the Champlain Canal is the government’s virtual silence on the matter. In that vacuum, GE and its public relations operation have been left to dominate the conversation.  Read the whole article here.

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The Daily Gazette: "Force GE to complete cleanup"

Any parent knows that when a boy asks, "Is this good?" he knows it isn't.

General Electric Co., which has been dredging PCBs from the Hudson River for the past decade, knows it's not good.

It knows that despite spending more than $1 billion to methodically dip giant clamshells from barges into the river bottom summer after summer, treat the material at a processing site nearby, then dutifully ship the poisonous stuff to a landfill far away, its obligation to clean the river is far from over.  Read more here.

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