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Three years ago this month, the Environmental Protection Agency was preparing to reveal that, in a switch, it would allow PCBs dredged from the Housatonic River to be buried in the Berkshires. The General Electric Co. continues to shape plans for that controversial disposal site in Lee. But a challenge by two environmental groups still stands in the way.

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With two lawyers at the head table, elected and appointed leaders in Lee worked in public Thursday night to map legal strategies on a pressing local question: Can the town stop a plan to bury PCB-tainted sediments here? Within minutes, it became clear Lee faces a heavy lift, due to a lopsided legal landscape that gives state and federal governments, through “preemption,” a greater say over the Environmental Protection Agency’s current Rest of River cleanup.