Our Opinion: General Electric's obligation to Berkshires


General Electric's emphatic smackdown of the federal EPA's cleanup plan for the Housatonic River extends to Berkshire County residents as well.

By rejecting the EPA's reasonable 13-year, $613 million "Rest of River" proposal (Eagle, March 17), GE casts the plan into the legal arena, where it may spend some time. Among the many criticisms of the plan, Ann Klee, GE's vice president for global operations, attacked the EPA for insisting that PCB-contaminated soil be transported out of the county at additional cost to GE, which would offer "no benefit other than placating local opponents."

Actually, addressing the concerns of Berkshire residents is exactly what EPA should be attempting to do. It is something GE should want to do as well, given that it is responsible for the contamination of the river. That doesn't mean that everyone or anyone will come away entirely happy. What it does mean is that the spirit of compromise that led to the 2000 Consent Decree and the successful cleanup of the river and properties in Pittsfield should be revived.

GE is engaging in revisionist history when it asserts that the 2000 agreement applies to the remainder of the river. If that is the case, why did GE stop working on the river rather than continue south under the tenets of the Consent Decree? It could be halfway through Connecticut by now. It was always understood that new concepts and changes would be considered as the cleanup continued.

Before the EPA plan vanishes into legal limbo, we ask Governor Charlie Baker, who helped put together a financial incentive package to bring GE's corporate headquarters to Boston, to lean on GE on behalf of the far western part of the state. GE has the responsibility to be a good corporate citizen in the Berkshires, not just Boston.


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