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Gov. Cuomo, New York AG sue Trump administration over General Electric’s Hudson River cleanup

2019-08-23

A view along the Hudson River where a former General Electric factory discharged cancer linked polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

The Trump administration let General Electric off the hook despite a botched cleanup of cancer-linked chemicals from the Hudson River, Gov. Cuomo and New York Attorney General Letitia James charged Wednesday in a lawsuit.

Filed jointly in Albany Federal Court, the suit alleges President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency improperly handed GE a certificate of completion in April that said the electric giant had successfully scrubbed the estimated 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls that it dumped into the river over decades of manufacturing along the waterway.

Cuomo and James contend data show fish in the Hudson remain too toxic to eat because of the massive PCB spill. Additionally, they said the EPA issued a five-year review on the very day that it gave GE its certificate that found the Hudson cleanup was not “adequately protective of human health and the environment.”

For those reasons, the elected New York officials said the certificate should be rescinded.

“Trump’s EPA is failing New Yorkers and the environment by putting the priorities of polluters first,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We have an obligation to protect the health and vitality of both the Hudson River and the communities along its banks for current and future generations. Since the EPA has failed to hold GE accountable for restoring the river, New York is taking action to demand a full and complete remediation.”

James echoed the governor’s sentiment.

“We will not allow the EPA to let big polluters like General Electric off the hook without a fight,” the AG said.

GE, which has invested $1.7 billion in Hudson cleanup efforts since 2006, countered that it was given the certificate after EPA conducted a “comprehensive review” of the river.

“New York State’s data showed that 99% of locations sampled in the upper Hudson met the cleanup standard that EPA set,” GE spokesman Mark Behan said. “Environmental conditions in the Hudson will continue to improve.”

An EPA spokeswoman declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.

PCBs have been linked to various types of cancer, and the state Health Department still advises children and women younger than 50 to not eat fish from the 200-mile stretch near the since-shuttered GE plants in upstate Fort Edward and Hudson Falls because of the spill.