Dutchess County To File Brief Supporting NYS's Suit Against EPA Over PCB Cleanup

Aug 26, 2019

Last week, New York state officials announced a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over General Electric’s PCB cleanup in the Hudson River. A county executive in the Hudson Valley is joining the effort.

Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro says his county will file a friend of the court brief in support of the state’s lawsuit that 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.

“I believe that we have one moment in time to finally restore the Hudson River,” Molinaro says. “And the EPA has abandoned that responsibility, that commitment, not only to the generations of people who have fought for this cleanup, but the generations of residents, businesses, communities and all those who follow us who will look back and will question whether or not this country, this community, was absolutely committed to restoring the Hudson River.”

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. Molinaro, who has been vocal on the issue in the past, says he’s in communication with officials from other counties and hopes they will join in filing such a brief.

“We are simply adding our voice and articulating what the impact is to Dutchess County and the lower Hudson River Valley if the river isn’t cleaned up,” says Molinaro. “So our brief will reinforce, in a very specific way, what impact lack of cleanup and the EPA’s failure to meet its responsibility will mean not only to those who take water and enjoy the Hudson River today, but what this looks like and would look like into the future if the river is not fully restored.”

Impacts, he says, on those who rely on the river for drinking water, fishing, recreation, tourism and commerce. Molinaro calls the EPA’s issuance of the Certification of Completion “grossly premature.”

“So I am not at all going to allow the county to stand on the shorelines and allow this just simply to occur,” Molinaro says.

Democratic Assemblymember Didi Barrett’s 106th District includes portions of Dutchess and Columbia Counties. She says it’s important to have as broad support as possible for New York state’s leadership on the issue to protect a river that is integral to the region’s environmental, economic and cultural heritage.

“It’s just crucial to who we are, and we deserve a clean river,” Barrett says. “And I don’t think we should be supporting industry that’s not cleaning up after itself.  So that’s why it’s important to have everybody engaged in this.”

GE spokesman Mark Behan declined to comment on Dutchess County’s intent to file a brief, but, in a statement about New York’s lawsuit, said, in part, “EPA conducted a comprehensive review of the Hudson River dredging project and concluded that dredging successfully reduced PCB levels, no additional dredging is warranted, and GE met all of its obligations.”

Though the PCB cleanup occurred in the upper Hudson River, Barrett says the lower Hudson is not immune from detrimental effects of PCBs.

“And I think we need to make sure that the whole river is clean for people to be able to eat, people to be able to enjoy and people to access the water,” says Barrett. “Water is such a critical issue right now.”

In their August 21 announcement of the lawsuit, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and state Attorney General Letitia James said that when EPA issued the Certificate of Completion, the agency’s Five-Year Review found that the cleanup was not adequately protective of human health and the environment. They said the EPA concluded that it did not have sufficient information to determine if or when the cleanup would meet this standard.