Environmental groups & thousands of citizens call on EPA this week: Make GE finish the Hudson River cleanup

Recently, I wrote about General Electric’s latest attempts to evade full responsibility for cleaning up more than a million pounds of toxic chemicals (called PCBs) that it dumped in the Hudson River decades ago. These chemicals continue to poison the river’s waters and fish, yet from the beginning GE has been trying to dodge its responsibility to clean them up and fully restore the river’s health.

Under a 2006 settlement with the EPA, GE was legally obligated to complete Phase 1 of the cleanup, which wrapped up last fall and provided valuable lessons for how to complete the cleanup safely and effectively. This fall, EPA will decide on standards to govern the second and final phase of the cleanup, which would begin next spring. Under the terms of the settlement, GE is then required to decide by this end of the year whether to accept full responsibility and finish the job – or to walk away from the settlement and prepare to fight any further enforcement action by EPA.

Today, as the deadline approaches, NRDC President Frances Beinecke, joined by the heads of other leading regional environmental groups, sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, calling on her to stand tough and reject the corporation’s request to retain the option of walking away from a full cleanup of the river. Here’s an excerpt:

“We are writing to urge the EPA to reject General Electric Company’s (GE) recent request to delay yet again the generations-long struggle to restore the environmental and economic health of one of America’s most loved rivers—the Hudson... We strongly believe this is simply another effort by GE to disown full responsibility for its polluted legacy in the Hudson River Valley.”

Also, within the last ten days, over 8,000 (so far) of NRDC’s online activists have echoed this call, e-mailing EPA and asking them to deliver the same message to GE. (Click here to join them in taking action and send a letter yourself. And spread the word – share it with your friends on Facebook when you’re done!)

Likewise, Pete Grannis, the Commissioner of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, wrote to Ms. Jackson imploring EPA to reject GE’s delay tactics. As he wrote, “[w]e have reached a point in time that has literally been decades in the making . . . There is no scientific, legal or policy basis” for further delay. 

The public’s voice is loud and clear – GE must not be allowed to walk away from its mess. It must return a healthy Hudson River to surrounding communities.  

At the highest levels of the company, GE continues its efforts to avoid a commitment to a full cleanup.  GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt himself met recently with EPA Administrator Jackson, in a closed door meeting, to plead the company’s case. As far as we know, EPA has not yet provided its final response.

GE and its powerful lobby are already in EPA’s ear – let’s make sure they can still hear the people’s call loud and clear.