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Post date: December 14 2017

A.G. Schneiderman And Gov. Cuomo Announce That NY Will Sue EPA If Agency Deems Hudson River PCB Dredging “Complete”

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

December 14, 2017

Attorney General’s Press Office / 212-416-8060
Twitter: @AGSchneiderman



AG, Governor Declare PCB Cleanup A Job Not Done; If Certificate of Completion Issued by EPA, State Will Withdraw from Record of Decision

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced New York’s intent to sue the U.S. EPA if the agency accepts the Upper Hudson River dredging of polychlorinated biphenyls as complete. Additionally, with this plan of legal action, New York is also prepared to withdraw from the 2002 Record of Decision which guided the cleanup and removal of millions of tons of PCB-contaminated sediment from the Upper Hudson River. The EPA’s decision is expected to be announced later this month.

“The Hudson is one of New York’s crown jewels, vital to our environment, our economy, and our communities,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “The law is clear: EPA cannot possibly support a finding that GE’s actions have been sufficient to protect New Yorkers' public health and the environment. If the EPA declares mission accomplished, we will sue to ensure New York sees the full, timely cleanup and restoration of the Hudson River that was promised."

“The Hudson River is a critical economic engine and environmental treasure and New York will not allow PCB contamination to continue wreaking havoc on this vital resource,” said Governor Cuomo. “The data is clear: the job is not done and the EPA cannot declare that this remediation is complete. If they do, New York will take any action necessary to hold them accountable for ensuring our waterways are protected and properly restored.”

With this proposal and in cooperation with the state Attorney General, New York will file a lawsuit if the EPA ignores compelling scientific data and finds that the Hudson River cleanup of PCBs is complete. General Electric filed a request for a Certificate of Completion on December 23, 2016, and EPA has 365 days to respond to the request pursuant to the Consent decree between GE and the EPA.

In 2002, after decades of investigation and debate, the EPA issued the ROD which guided the cleanup effort and removal of millions of tons of PCB-contaminated sediment from a portion of the Upper Hudson River. Specifically, the ROD expected PCB levels in fish would rapidly decline. Unfortunately, the EPA’s 2002 decision relied on flawed modeling rather than actual sampling data, and their current draft five-year review of the dredging effectiveness, together with fish contamination data and recent DEC sediment sampling, indicates these objectives will not be met.

In addition, Governor Cuomo is directing the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to withdraw its concurrence with EPA’s 2002 ROD for the river’s cleanup. The ROD projected rapid reductions in PCB levels in fish after dredging, which was the fundamental reason for the DEC’s concurrence with the ROD at the time. Extensive sediment sampling conducted earlier this year by DEC clearly demonstrates significant levels of contamination persist in the river, and confirms that the remediation fails to achieve the required reductions of PCBs in fish and the environment promised by EPA in the 2002 ROD. DEC recently sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt outlining these concerns and reiterating that a Certificate of Completion should not be issued for this project.

From the 1940s through the 1970s, General Electric manufacturing facilities in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward dumped well in excess of one million pounds of hazardous PCBs directly into the River. This contamination has impacted the health and livelihood communities along the Hudson River ever since, including the decimation of a once-thriving $40 million commercial fishery. Governor Cuomo has urged the EPA to conduct a complete and thorough review. In 2016, the Department of Environmental Conservation demanded that the EPA take additional samples of river sediments in order to determine the effectiveness of the dredging. When the EPA refused, DEC led the effort by taking over 1,200 samples in Summer 2017. 

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Time and time again we have cautioned the EPA that their cleanup was not protective of human health or the environment, and with Governor Cuomo’s actions today, we hope they will get the message. The EPA's own analysis indicates that fish species will not reach the levels envisioned in the cleanup plan for more than fifty years absent additional action. That is simply too long and not consistent with the estimates in the ROD. The EPA must evaluate the removal of additional contamination and must not issue a certificate of completion at this time.”