Dutchess and Ulster County Execs Join To Support NYS Lawsuit Against EPA

Oct 8, 2019

The Dutchess and Ulster County executives say they will take legal action in support of New York state’s lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's decision on General Electric’s Hudson River PCB cleanup. Some cities, towns and villages in the two counties are lending their support as well.

Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan met at the middle of pedestrian bridge Walkway Over the Hudson to announce they will file a friend of the court brief.

“Ulster County and Dutchess County are joining forces to sue the EPA, to hold them accountable, and to ensure that the efforts that are being made in Albany by the state government have the voices of the people along the Hudson River to make perfectly clear that we will not accept anything less than a clean bill of health for the Hudson River,” Molinaro says.

Ryan and Molinaro spoke to reporters on the Walkway, which spans the Hudson River between the two counties.

“I learned this when I was 4 years old from my mom: if you make a mess, you clean up the mess. You don’t halfway clean up the mess; you 100 percent clean up the mess,” Ryan says. “We will not stop until GE and the EPA do that.”

Molinaro said in late August, just after state officials announced a lawsuit against the EPA, his county would file a friend of the court brief in support of the state’s lawsuit. That lawsuit charges that the EPA's issuance of the Certification of Completion of Remedial Action to GE is beyond the agency's legal authority and should be vacated. EPA issued the Certification of Completion to GE in April for its cleanup of PCBs along a 40-mile stretch of the upper Hudson River. A spokeswoman says the EPA does not comment on pending litigation. Scenic Hudson Director of Advocacy Hayley Carlock:

“Scenic Hudson is looking forward to partnering with other environmental organizations, including Riverkeeper, to file a brief also supporting the state’s lawsuit,” Carlock says. “We cannot allow EPA to abandon the Hudson River while toxic levels of PCBs still remain within its sediment and within its fish. We owe it to future generations to ensure that GE cleans up the mess that it made.”

Spokesman Mark Behan says GE has asked a federal court for permission to intervene in New York state’s lawsuit against the EPA to support EPA’s decision certifying the Hudson River dredging project as complete. He says EPA and the state have not objected to GE’s intervening. Again, Molinaro.

“This Hudson River, this waterway, is perhaps the most historically, ecologically, culturally and socially significant waterway in America, and we are not going to stand on the shoreline allowing the EPA and others to take advantage of it any longer,” says Molinaro.

And Ryan.

“And we’re also here unfortunately, sadly, because our federal government has failed us. The EPA, rather than looking out for us, the citizens and residents they’re supposed to protect, is helping and bailing out a $121 billion mega-multinational corporation,” says Ryan.. “And this is a pattern that’s continued over and over and, frankly, it’s just gotten worse under this administration out of Washington, and we’re not going to tolerate that.”

Shannon Harris is Esopus Town Supervisor, and member of the Hudson 7, the Hudson River Drinking Water Intermunicipal Council devoted to the protection of the Hudson River as the source of drinking water for more than 100,000 people in seven river communities.

“GE is literally getting away with leaving massive quantities of a dangerous chemical in the sediment of our river, which is right alongside the drinking water intake valves of over 100,000 people in Ulster and Dutchess Counties,” Harris says.

Dan Shapley is water quality program director with Riverkeeper.

“We can’t eat the fish. The cleanup’s not done,” Shapley says. “It is, frankly, an injustice that a family today — 50 years after we started this grand project of cleaning up the Hudson River — that a family today can’t go down to the river, catch a fish, put it on the table and eat it without putting their health at risk.”

Since Dutchess County first announced plans in August to file the friend of the court brief, Molinaro says communities across the Hudson Valley have expressed their support through letters and resolution adoptions, all of which will become part of the supporting documentation for the brief.