GE Efforts To Clean The River
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Pittsfield and The Housatonic

      In Pittsfield, GE has worked for 17 years under supervision by EPA and the states of Massachusetts and
      Connecticut to clean up PCBs on its former plant site, along the Housatonic River, and at residential properties,
      schools and a city park. GE has complied with all regulatory requirements. EPA, which has exercised de facto
      oversight there, confirmed in a June 1997 letter: "GE is currently in compliance with its (federal cleanup
      program) permit."

      This year, GE established a voluntary goal of cleaning up 62 properties in Pittsfield. So far, we have completed
      17 properties and removed 18,000 tons of contaminated soil. Our work continues on schedule and at an
      aggressive pace.

      GE also has been a full participant in months of negotiation among representatives of the City of Pittsfield, EPA
      and the states over future PCB cleanup and economic issues. In May, Pittsfield city leaders and GE reached
      agreement on an environmental and economic plan valued at more than $145 million that calls for GE to
      conduct extensive and prompt additional PCB cleanup and provide economic help for the future of the city and
      the Berkshires. Thus far, EPA has chosen not to join this agreement.

      Resolve Differences Through Science

      Even as we have pursued these aggressive clean-up programs, GE and EPA continue to have serious technical
      differences, particularly on issues related to PCBs and human health and the appropriateness and effectiveness
      of large-scale dredging. We believe these differences should be resolved on the basis of a full and rigorous
      analysis of the best available science, not on political considerations.

      On the Hudson River, there has never been a scientific consensus in favor of dredging, and EPA has never
      ordered dredging. In fact, in its standing decision on the issue, EPA in 1984 rejected dredging because of the
      risks of dredging and the potential for serious environmental damage. Since then, the volumes of data on
      Hudson River conditions show clearly that dredging old, buried PCB deposits would not achieve the common
      goal of reducing PCB levels in fish any faster than GE's ongoing and successful program of preventing PCBs
      from reaching the Hudson. Our approach, which is working, involves cutting off sources of PCBs to the river in
      the area of our Hudson Falls plant site. GE believes that if EPA fairly evaluates all of the scientific data on the
      Hudson it will reach the same conclusion we have reached: Dredging is wrong; source-control is right.

      On the Housatonic, GE has proposed to EPA that the government agencies and the company jointly conduct a
      full scientific evaluation of the risks, harms and likely outcome of a massive Housatonic dredging project before
      beginning what could be a catastrophic assault on the river's ecology and nearby private properties.

      Moreover, EPA's regulation of PCBs still does not take full account of the growing body of independent
      scientific research -- more than 20 human health studies conducted over the last 20 years -- that shows that
      PCBs do not cause cancer or other serious illnesses in people. Regarding allegations that PCBs cause other
      adverse effects such as endocrine disruption, EPA has said there is too little information to make such a
      determination. We agree more study is necessary.

      Stop-and-Go Process

      Despite these differences, GE has aggressively pursued PCB clean-up projects, with excellent results in both
      states. State and federal environmental laws create a stop-and-go process in which companies investigate
      potential environmental problems and propose solutions but must wait for government approval to proceed at
      every step. Long government approval cycles cause long delays.

      When EPA began its Hudson River Reassessment in 1990, it predicted completion within two years and may
      have underestimated the complexity of the task and need to collect and analyze large amounts of data. As a
      result, EPA has had to extend its schedule on numerous occasions. GE has never sought extensions or
      proposed delays. To the contrary, GE has cooperated fully with EPA and improved the overall quality of its
      Reassessment by providing volumes of river data, analysis and PCB research and working with EPA
      contractors to develop computer models to predict future river conditions.

      In a hearing before Assemblyman Brodsky's Environmental Conservation Committee in March 1997, EPA's
      William McCabe said: " ... EPA has spent significant time addressing issues raised by the team of scientists
      working on the project for General Electric. While many people are critical of the expenditure of time in this
      manner, EPA believes that a number of concerns that General Electric has raised have been valid, and that by
      understanding such concerns and addressing them as appropriate, the Reassessment will benefit."

      Recently, in response to demands from elected officials and citizens upset over a landfill-siting report the agency
      kept secret, EPA agreed to subject its Hudson River science to independent peer review and to open its
      process to more public involvement. GE supported both decisions.

      On the Housatonic, GE met all regulatory commitments on time every time. By contrast, EPA failed to meet its
      own 90-day target for reviewing GE submissions on 25 of 33 occasions. EPA has had GE's technical paper on
      the Housatonic River for two years and has not uttered one word about it.

      In our work on both the Hudson and the Housatonic rivers, GE has followed two guiding principles: our full
      compliance with the law and insistence on a sound scientific basis for all regulatory decisions. We will continue
      to do so.
 
 

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