A.G. Schneiderman Announces $154 Million Landmark Bankruptcy Settlement With General Motors To Clean Up Contaminated Sites In New York

NEW YORK - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that a United States Bankruptcy Judge in New York yesterday approved a settlement agreement with the former General Motors (GM) Corporation (now known as Motors Liquidation Company) that will dedicate $154 million to the environmental cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated sites in New York. The agreement was approved as part of the company’s plan of liquidation and involved settlements with the federal government and several States, including New York and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. In all, the agreement will dedicate $773 million to 89 sites in 14 states around the country.

Since GM filed for bankruptcy in 2009, the Office of the Attorney General has participated extensively in efforts to ensure that bankruptcy funds be dedicated to addressing the company’s legacy of contaminated sites in New York. The bankruptcy proceedings announced today will address the cleanup of two contaminated sites in New York. Attorney General Schneiderman intends to participate in further ongoing efforts to obtain additional funds to address contamination at other properties in New York for which GM has responsibilities.

"When General Motors shut down these facilities in the state, they left behind acres of contaminated land that threaten public health and the environment and represent major obstacles to local economic development efforts in many New York communities," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "The money secured yesterday in this landmark bankruptcy settlement will make a critical contribution to the effort to clean up GM's legacy of pollution, and return the Massena and Inland Fisher Guide sites to safe, economically productive use by their communities. The settlement does not represent the conclusion of this effort, as our office will continue to seek to recover additional funds to further remediate and redevelop other sites in New York where GM has obligations."

The settlement with the former General Motors Corp. and the federal government will dedicate $154 million directly for the cleanup and redevelopment of former GM sites in Massena (St. Lawrence County) and Salina – just outside Syracuse (Onondaga County). The funds will not only clean up pollution that threatens public health and safety in these communities, but will also make these sites available and attractive for economic development.

Funds have also been set aside to provide security, and pay local taxes for the sites, thus relieving local communities of further potential burdens.

The settlement agreement establishes an “Environmental Response Trust” under the supervision of an administrative trustee in cooperation with the states and the federal Environmental Protection Agency for cleaning up properties owned and contaminated by the former GM.

Both sites addressed by yesterday's decision are on the federal National Priorities List and the State Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Sites. The 270-acre Massena site which is contaminated with Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), metals and other contamination from aluminum die-casting and other manufacturing activities that took place on the property from 1959 - 2009, will receive $120.8 million for continued remediation.

The 65-acre Inland Fisher Guide site in Salina, just outside Syracuse, also suffers from PCB contamination and will receive $33.2 million. Some of this funding will be used at adjacent areas including Upper Ley Creek. New York and other states will be eligible to access an additional $68 million in Environmental Response Trust funds for any unexpected additional cleanup activities necessary.

Robert M. Simpson, president of the CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity, said, "This announcement is good news for the CenterState New York region as it directly and positively impacts former GM facilities in both St. Lawrence and Onondaga Counties. Through cooperative efforts, the region has already seen substantial reuse of the former Fisher Guide plant by dozens of companies creating hundreds of jobs. The $33 million in critical new funding obtained by AG Schneiderman will support the continued redevelopment of the site -- including resources for economic development opportunities -- and improvement of our environment.”

Dereth Glance, Executive Program Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said, "We deeply appreciate Attorney General Schneiderman's commitment to obtain as much money as possible from the GM settlement for the removal of PCBs and other contamination at the former GM plant adjacent to Ley Creek, a key tributary to Onondaga Lake. The AG's success in holding polluters accountable is critical for improving the environmental and economic health of our community."

The agreement also creates an Administrative Funding Account to cover costs normally associated with owning property - including site maintenance, utilities, local taxes, security, and other expenses associated with redevelopment at the Massena and Salina properties. This Fund will alleviate some of the impact on the communities resulting from General Motors’ departure.

New York continues to negotiate the resolution of claims related to several other New York sites at which former General Motors /Motors Liquidation has liability for environmental contamination, but which are not owned or used by the company. The cleanup costs associated with these other sites are estimated to exceed $224 million.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Maureen Leary of the Attorney General's Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa M. Burianek.