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Gov. Cuomo and AG James to sue EPA over GE’s PCB cleanup certificate


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Attorney General Letitia James have announced plans for the state to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for issuing a Certificate of Completion for General Electric’s cleanup of PCB contamination in the Hudson River.

A barge is pushed by a tugboat on the Hudson River just north of the Mid-Hudson Bridge. Photo by Bob Rozycki.

The EPA’s certificate was issued on April 11 despite a study from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that insisted the contamination cleanup in the upper Hudson River was incomplete and posed a threat to public health and the environment. The state’s elected leaders insisted the EPA’s action would make it more difficult for the federal agency to ensure GE will implement more dredging or other remedial measures in the upper Hudson River.

“Time and again the Trump administration puts corporations and polluters’ interests ahead of public health and the environment,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The Hudson River is the lifeblood of communities from New York City to the Adirondacks but we know PCB levels remain unacceptably high in the riverbed and in fish. Since the EPA has failed to hold GE accountable for fulfilling its obligation to restore the river, New York state will take any action necessary to protect our waterways and that includes suing the EPA to demand a full and complete remediation. Anything less is unacceptable.”

“The Hudson River is critical to the environment and economy of New York,” James said. “Despite the EPA’s stance, the facts remain crystal clear: the cleanup of PCBs is incomplete, and allowing GE to walk away without accountability is dangerous to the health and welfare of New Yorkers. Once again, the EPA has failed to protect the environment and failed to protect the residents of our state, but my office will work tirelessly to ensure the cleanup and restoration of the Hudson River carries on.”

The EPA did not publicly respond to the threat of litigation, but it announced the certificate issuance by stating that it did not take this issue of Hudson River pollution lightly.

“I have worked on the Hudson River cleanup since the early 1980s and I consider the restoration of the river a centerpiece of my entire 40-year career at EPA,” said Walter Mugdan, former Superfund director and current deputy regional administrator for EPA Region 2. “These decisions, which are sound from both a scientific and legal perspective, are the continuation of that work. Far from declaring the job done, we will continue to move forward with the important work to continue to address PCBs in the Hudson River.”

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