Cuomo Administration and State Attorney General’s Office Call on EPA Not to Let GE Quit PCB Cleanup Before it’s Done

Wednesday, November 29, 2017 -- Scenic Hudson
Contact: 

Jay Burgess
Director of Communications, Scenic Hudson, Inc.
Tel: (845) 473-4440 x222 Cell: (914) 489-0362 Fax: (845) 473-0740
jburgess@scenichudson.org

State leaders say giving GE a Certificate of Completion would be against federal law

HUDSON VALLEY, N.Y.—Scenic Hudson commends Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner (DEC) Basil Seggos and the New York State Office of the Attorney General for taking action to press the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withhold issuing a Certificate of Completion to General Electric Co. (GE) for its Hudson River PCB cleanup. Issuing the Certificate of Completion could prematurely relieve GE of liability for future work to clean up its PCBs from the Upper Hudson River.

Letter from Cuomo administration’s DEC

In a Nov. 22 letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, DEC Commissioner Seggos stated, “A decision by EPA to certify completion of the remedy will have significant consequences. GE would receive this release from cleanup responsibility even though their remedial actions fell short. There remains in the Upper Hudson significantly greater amounts of PCBs than EPA anticipated there would be after dredging.”

He added, “EPA must not approve GE’s request for a Certificate of Completion. Granting GE’s request is effectively shifting the burden to finish the cleanup onto New York State taxpayers, which is simply unacceptable.”

In recommending six specific actions EPA should pursue, the first item identified by Commissioner Seggos was, “EPA must not certify the remedy as complete at this time, given existing evidence shows that the remedy is not currently protective of public health and the environment. Rather, EPA must withhold such certificate until conditions at the site justify a determination that the remedy is protective.”

Commissioner Seggos also underscored recent DEC testing that indicates the cleanup is not protective of human health or the environment. “Much more PCB was found in the river during both project design, and project implementation, and the State has confirmed that more PCB was left behind than was intended. EPA has an obligation to consider the science, and the new data that the State has collected, before making any determination about relieving GE of its liability for the ongoing contamination of the Hudson River.”

Letter from NYS Office of the Attorney General

In a letter dated the same day to EPA officials, the New York State Office of the Attorney General stated, “EPA has not determined—and validly cannot determine based on the administrative record—that the remedial action for the Upper Hudson River has attained a degree of cleanup that assures protection of human health. Because EPA has not found that the remedial action has attained a degree of cleanup that assures protection of human health, a Certificate of Completion of the remedial action may not lawfully be granted.”

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, “This is an important action by New York State to ensure GE is held accountable until the goals of the cleanup have been met. This is one of the largest and most visible Superfund sites in the country, and the cleanup to date has failed to achieve Superfund’s primary goal of protecting public health and the environment. There is still an opportunity for EPA to achieve Administrator Scott Pruitt’s stated goal to complete a successful cleanup of the Hudson River, one that would achieve environmental and economic restoration of the region.”

Scenic Hudson pressed legal issues in earlier letter

In a letter sent to the agency in October, Scenic Hudson also cited legal grounds demonstrating that EPA cannot issue the Certificate of Completion. The group also advocated for New York State to continue pressing for a comprehensive cleanup of health-threatening PCBs to repair natural resources and community assets damaged for decades by GE’s actions.

All three letters to EPA can be downloaded from the Resource Center at scenichudson.org/pcbs.

About Scenic Hudson

Scenic Hudson helps citizens and communities preserve land and farms and create parks where people experience the outdoors and enjoy the Hudson River. We also bring together people, businesses and government to protect the river and natural resources that are the engines of the valley’s local economies. Started in 1963 by a handful of citizens who cherished the simple pleasures of the outdoors along the Hudson, Scenic Hudson is credited with launching the modern grass-roots environmental movement. Today, in the face of new challenges and the effects of climate change, we are dedicated to making the Hudson Valley a great place to live, work and play. Our focus is on strengthening and maximizing benefits all can enjoy from the region’s great assets—beautiful open spaces, working farms, and vibrant cities and town centers.

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