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GE in N.Y. Talks to Widen Hudson River Pollution Cleanup

GE in Talks With N.Y. on Wider Cleanup of Hudson River Pollution
A file photo shows the old Hudson Falls General Electric Co. plant on December 7, 2001 in Hudson Falls, New York. Photographer: William Waldron/Getty Images

May 2 (Bloomberg) -- General Electric Co. is in talks with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on expanding its cleanup of contaminants in the Hudson River, according to the head of the state’s canal agency.

“It’s being talked about, but no agreement is in place yet,” Brian Stratton, director of the New York State Canal Corp., said in an interview at the state Capitol in Albany. “It’s occurring within other levels of government, the governor’s office and the attorney general’s office.”

GE, which dumped as much as 1.3 million pounds (590,000 kilograms) of suspected carcinogens into the Hudson over three decades, says it has spent more than $1 billion removing polluted sediment under agreements with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A fourth season of dredging on a 40-mile (64-kilometer) stretch of the river began April 30.

New York officials have argued the state has ecological and financial incentives to prod Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE for a wider cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli used leverage from a public-employee pension fund’s GE holdings to win a promise from the company in March to study cleaning more of the river. That would ease the risk of additional GE penalties, he said in a statement.

‘Just Tremendous’

“The fact that the governor and attorney general are taking leadership on this is just tremendous,” Andy Bicking, public policy director at Scenic Hudson, an environmental group that backs expanded dredging, said yesterday in a telephone interview.

The canal agency has said that state and federal regulators’ assessment of ecological damage from the pollution should include the cost of restoring Hudson River navigation channels outside GE’s dredging zone. More than 600,000 cubic yards of sediment must be removed to clear the waterway, the agency said in a presentation to an oversight panel last month.

Mark Behan, a company spokesman who works for Behan Communications Inc., declined to comment on whether GE is in talks with New York state officials.

“EPA is in charge of this project, has determined the scope of this project and has said it does not intend to expand the scope of this project on three separate occasions, most recently last summer,” Behan said by telephone. “We have no expectation that EPA will change its view.”

GE climbed 0.8 percent to $22.32 at the close in New York. The shares have risen 6.3 percent this year, trailing the 12 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Rich Azzopardi, a Cuomo spokesman, and Damien LaVera, a spokesman for Schneiderman, didn’t respond to e-mails and phone calls requesting comment on the talks with GE.

GE sued National Grid Plc’s Niagara Mohawk unit in federal court in New York seeking costs associated with the dredging. GE alleged in a complaint filed April 26 that contaminated sediment and debris was released when the utility removed a dam at Fort Edward, New York.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tim Catts in New York at tcatts1@bloomberg.net; Freeman Klopott in Albany at fklopott@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net; Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

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