Ulster and Dutchess Counties Unite to Fight
EPA’s Decision to Issue Certificate of Completion
for Hudson River Cleanup
Officials from across Hudson River region lending support to effort
Poughkeepsie… Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan joined with Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro today on the Walkway Over the Hudson, along with local municipal leaders and environmental advocacy organizations, to announce Ulster County will join Dutchess County in legal action in support of the New York State lawsuit filed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The lawsuit, relating to General Electric’s (GE) PCB cleanup of the Hudson River, charges the EPA’s issuance of a Certification of Completion of Remedial Action to GE is beyond the agency’s legal authority and should be vacated to ensure the cleanup is completed and make certain the Hudson River is restored to a safe, healthy and thriving ecosystem.
“The fight to protect our Hudson River started the modern environmental movement. Today we are coming together as two counties to continue that fight. We can’t let General Electric off the hook for the mess they made of our precious Hudson River. As County Executive, I’ll continue to fight big corporations who pollute our environment and protect our county from harmful policies due to the neglect of the federal government. We must hold both the EPA and GE accountable, anything short of complete remediation of the damage that they caused is unacceptable, ” said Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said, “The Hudson River is among the most culturally, economically, historically, socially and ecologically significant waterways in the world. The Hudson may physically divide us, but in so many ways it unites Dutchess and Ulster counties. For generations, communities on both sides of the river have relied on it for drinking water, fishing, recreation, tourism and commerce. Our communities have proudly shared the responsibility to care, advocate and fight for this piece of our home and way of life. Today, we are once again coming together and vowing to take every step we can to hold the EPA and polluters accountable.”
Dutchess County Executive Molinaro announced in August 2019 that Dutchess County would take legal action in support of the lawsuit filed against the EPA by New York State Attorney General Letitia James, the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Governor Andrew Cuomo. The suit asserts the EPA violated federal law when, in April, despite indication that concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a known human carcinogen, remain dangerously high in the Hudson River, it issued a “Certificate of Completion” GE’s PCB clean-up efforts were complete and the EPA agrees not to sue GE in the future.
“GE and the EPA are either in denial or simply don’t care about how dangerous the PCBs in the Hudson River truly are, and the threat they pose to public health,” said New York State Attorney General Letitia James. “To pronounce GE’s cleanup of PCBs ‘complete’ when Hudson River fish are still too poisonous to consume puts the health of New Yorkers at extreme risk. My office will continue to push back against this fraudulent certificate of completion, and I thank Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro for their commitment to holding big polluters like GE accountable for their toxic actions.”
Dutchess County, now together with Ulster County, will jointly submit a Motion for Permission to file the amicus-curiae brief at the appropriate time in the State’s litigation. Since Dutchess County first announced plans to file the amicus-curiae brief in August, communities from across the Hudson Valley Region have expressed their support through letters and resolution adoptions, all of which will become part of the supporting documentation for the brief.
Among the communities supporting the legal action are the members 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 over 100,000 people in the City and Town of Poughkeepsie, the Village and Town of Rhinebeck, and the Towns of Esopus, Hyde Park and Lloyd.
“Nothing short of a full cleanup of PCBs from the Hudson River is acceptable. We support Dutchess and Ulster County, and New York State in their efforts to hold the EPA and General Electric accountable. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder in this fight,” said Gary Bassett, Mayor of the Village of Rhinebeck and Chair of the Hudson 7.
“General Electric fought for decades to avoid cleaning up 1.3 million pounds of PCB pollutants that have contaminated the Hudson River. The EPA’s willingness to side with corporate interests over community health and safety cannot stand. We support the State of New York in holding GE accountable for protecting and restoring the Hudson River, a drinking water source for more than 100,000 residents living throughout Ulster and Dutchess counties,” said Shannon Harris, Supervisor of the Town of Esopus and a member of the Hudson 7.
Environmental advocacy groups, including Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson, have also been vocal in their call for completing the clean-up and have denounced the EPA’s decision to issue the certificate of completion, pointing to the EPA’s own 2017 review of the remediation report. That report found cleanup efforts were not adequate to protect human health and the environment, and it will take more than 50 years to achieve that level of protection. The report also noted the Lower Hudson River section, including mid-Hudson communities, has received no health or environmental benefits from the upriver dredging.
“EPA’s decision to issue a Certificate of Completion to GE for its failed Hudson River cleanup let the polluter off the hook and left Hudson River communities holding the bag,” said Scenic Hudson Director of Advocacy Hayley Carlock. “Scenic Hudson is grateful to Dutchess and Ulster counties for joining forces to support New York State’s lawsuit to reverse EPA’s misguided and unlawful action. A complete cleanup that meets human health and ecological targets and restores a healthy river will enhance economic and recreational opportunities for Hudson Valley residents. Scenic Hudson and other environmental organizations will file a separate amicus curiae brief supporting the state’s case.”
“Riverkeeper commends Dutchess and Ulster counties for calling attention to the significant and wide-ranging impacts that General Electric’s PCBs continue to have on our river and our communities. EPA failed New Yorkers when it issued a certificate of completion to GE for a cleanup that has been woefully less effective than we were promised. We applaud the State for taking EPA to court over its abdication of responsibility and we stand with our elected officials in demanding that polluters like GE be held accountable for cleaning up their mess,” said Dan Shapley, Water Quality Program Director, Riverkeeper.