Environmental Advocates of NY

Press Releases > PCBs

February 5, 2003
Hudson River PCB Report Card

(Albany, NY) – One year after the signing of the federal decision requiring the General Electric Company (GE) to clean most of the remaining toxic PCBs from the Hudson River, Friends of a Clean Hudson (FOCH) has issued its first annual report card evaluating the project's progress. Grades have been issued for Governor Pataki, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), General Electric and Congressman John Sweeney. While the Governor and EPA receive good grades, General Electric and Congressman Sweeney have a lot of work to do before graduation.

While not everyone receives the high grades we would like, Friends of a Clean Hudson is encouraged that after one year, the Hudson River cleanup process is moving forward. At the end of the first year of the three year design phase, the project is on schedule and optimism is growing. Contrary to all of the cries and laments and dire warnings that were raised by GE and local elected officials in previous years, it is now clear that this project is going forward and that it will succeed.

Governor George Pataki / A-
Governor Pataki continues to play a constructive role in the Hudson River cleanup process. Not only was his support crucial in getting EPA to order GE to get PCBs out of the river in the first place, but he created a Hudson River Task Force, led by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), to help ensure that the views of all interested parties are considered. Only some late summer foot dragging by the DEC that delayed the start of the core sampling process by a few weeks, and delays in cleaning up the GE plant sites, particularly the 004 outfall in Ft. Edward, kept the Governor from receiving a solid A grade.

Environmental Protection Agency / B
The EPA Region 2 office has made great strides in addressing the concerns of local residents and other interested parties in the past twelve months. Of particular note was the opening of a regional field office in Ft. Edward. EPA staff has used the office for numerous public outreach sessions and has reversed earlier criticisms for failing to inform upriver residents about the agency's plans. And, clearly, the EPA needs to be tougher on GE, which is millions of dollars behind in reimbursing the agency for it's out–of-pocket cleanup expenses to date.

While EPA has made great progress this past year, Friends of a Clean Hudson has identified several areas that require continued attention. For example, EPA negotiations with GE must result in a strong enforceable agreement with no compromises or delays. Further, any agreement must have appropriate public disclosure, and an adequate program for public input that includes opportunities for interested parties along this 200-mile site that stretches from Ft. Edward to New York City.

General Electric / D
General Electric earned a D because it continues to drag its feet on the cleanup and duck its financial responsibilities. Working behind the scenes GE continues to needlessly prolong negotiations related to the cleanup and restoration of this great river. Sadly, GE failed to seize the opportunity to become a constructive team player. And by reimbursing the EPA only $5 million of the $37 million dollars owed to the federal government, GE has not shouldered its financial responsibility.

GE has also refused to cooperate in the cleanup of Outfall 004, a section of highly contaminated Hudson River shoreline. To improve its grade, GE must demonstrate more cooperation in cleaning up its plant sites and must fully reimburse the state and federal government for costs related to the cleanup as required by federal law.

Congressman John Sweeney / D
As the congressional representative of the cleanup zone, Congressman Sweeney has not been playing a helpful or unifying role. Offered a seat on the Governor's Task Force, Sweeney has failed to attend, or even send a representative. On the other hand, his own so-called advisory group is only open to those opposing the cleanup. To improve his grade, Representative Sweeney must learn to play well with others.

Friends of a Clean Hudson is a coalition of national, state and regional organizations fighting for the restoration of the Hudson River through the aggressive removal of PCB-contaminated sediments. The coalition comprises: the Appalachian Mountain Club, Arbor Hill Environmental Justice Corporation, Coast Alliance, Environmental Advocates of New York, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York Public Interest Research Group, New York Rivers United, Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, Sierra Club, U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

To view a PDF version of the report card, click here.

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