GE Sues National Grid for Payment of Hudson Dredging Cost

General Electric Co. sued National Grid Plc’s Niagara Mohawk unit in federal court in New York seeking costs associated with the government-ordered environmental cleanup of the Hudson River.

The complaint seeks a declaration that National Grid, owner of Britain’s power-distribution network, is responsible for paying an “equitable share of all future response costs” that Fairfield, Connecticut-based General Electric incurs in connection with the dredging of river sediments to remove polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

GE has incurred hundreds of millions of dollars in dredging-related costs, including millions that it wouldn’t have spent without the release of contaminated sediment and debris left behind when Niagara Mohawk, or NiMo, removed the Fort Edward Dam in 1973, GE said in its complaint filed April 26 in Albany.

“Plaintiff GE has contacted defendant NiMo regarding its contribution to the presence of hazardous substances at the site and has sought defendant’s cooperation in and contribution to the dredging project,” GE said. “Defendant has failed to cooperate with, pay for, or contribute in any way to the dredging project.”

National Grid, based in London, acquired Niagara Mohawk in January 2002 for $8.9 billion.

GE Singled Out

“We’re going to defend our position, primarily on the basis that we did not put the PCBs in the Hudson,” Steve Brady, a spokesman for National Grid, said today in a phone interview.

“If you go back through time it’s been fairly clear that the EPA singled out GE alone as being responsible for this,” Brady said, referring to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “We didn’t purchase, use or place the PCBs in the Hudson and we really think we need to protect our customers. We think it’s wrong for them to help pay for the remediation.”

Until 1977, GE operated two electrical capacitor manufacturing plants along the Hudson that caused PCBs to enter the river, according to its complaint. When it removed the Fort Edward Dam, Niagra Mohawk removed only about 200 cubic yards of sludge from behind it, leaving more than 1 million cubic yards of silt, sludge and sediment contaminated by PCBs, GE said.

The case is General Electric Co. v. Niagara Mohawk Power Corp., 1:13-cv-00473, U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York (Albany).

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