General Electric – Disclosure of Costs of Delay of Cleanup of Toxic Sites (2004 – 2005)

Outcome: 27.5

WHEREAS: General Electric disposed of at least 1.3 million pounds of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) into the Hudson River. GE plants in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls, NY are also heavily contaminated with PCBs. The Environmental Protection Agency designated 200 miles of the Hudson River as a Superfund site in 1984. The plant sites are New York State Superfund sites. In February 1976, a state Department of Conservation Hearing Officer, in a case against GE, described GE’s actions as “corporate abuse” and found that the record “overwhelmingly” demonstrated that GE violated NY State law by discharging large quantities of PCBs into the Hudson River.The federal government regulates PCBs as a known animal carcinogen and probable human carcinogen. Additional independent evidence indicates that PCBs may affect the immune and reproductive systems, cause endocrine disruption and have neurological effects.
PCB concentrations in Upper Hudson fish, sediment and water continue to exceed federal and state standards, creating unacceptable health and environmental risks.
GE has historically engaged in extensive public relations efforts, suggesting that “there is no credible evidence that PCBs in the Hudson River pose a risk to people or wildlife,” (GE spokesman Mark Behan, EPA Reports Dangers in Eating Fish From Upper Hudson River, Associated Press, 8/4/99).Despite the EPA’s decision calling for the removal of PCBs from the Hudson River, GE continues to pursue its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal Superfund. This lawsuit places the EPA’s decision and the remediation of other Superfund sites in jeopardy.
EPA’s cleanup of the Hudson River was to begin in 2005. The EPA has already announced a one year delay. GE has yet to pay the EPA approximately $20 million in past costs associated with this project and has yet to agree to perform EPA’s remedy, as public health and the environmental threats persist. GE plant sites continue to leak PCBs into the Hudson River and surrounding communities.
RESOLVED: Shareholders request the Board of Directors to report by August 1, 2005, at reasonable cost and excluding confidential information, its annual expenditures by category and specific site (where applicable) for each year from 1990-2003, on attorney’s fees, expert fees, lobbying, and public relations/media expenses, relating in any way to the health and environmental consequences of PCB exposures, GE’s remediation of sites contaminated by PCBs, and/or hazardous substance laws and regulations, as well as expenditures on actual remediation of PCB contaminated sites.
This resolution has been sponsored by dozens of religious, public and private pension funds. While plans to clean-up the Hudson River are under way, it is long overdue that our company discloses to shareholders the actual costs of its long term resistance to the remediation of this and other toxic sites. Shareholders have the right to this transparency.

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