Our Opinion: Alsop's journey puts focus on GE's responsibility


The irony of General Electric moving its corporate headquarters to Boston while it stalls a clean-up plan of the Housatonic River in the Berkshires may be lost on GE but it isn't lost on the county.

Stockbridge's Denny Alsop drew attention to that irony by paddling a canoe along roughly 250 miles of the state's waterways, concluding his journey Wednesday on the Charles River in Boston. Mr. Alsop then went to the site of GE's future headquarters where he read a letter from Tad Ames, president of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, urging GE to abandon its "strategy of corporate delay and fear" and instead use its vast resources to finish cleaning the river.

The Environmental Protection Agency has produced a fair and reasonable cleanup plan for the river, polluted by PCBs during GE's years in Pittsfield, south of Pittsfield through the Berkshires. GE is determined to fight the plan in court, even though the highly profitable corporation has the wherewithal to finance the cleanup, as well as the moral obligation to do so.

There is no reason to doubt the declaration of GE CEO Jeff Immelt that the company may lead the world in river dredging because, as Housatonic River Initiative Director Tim Gray observed (Eagle, April 21), the company is a world leader in river pollution. What GE has done before, including an impressive cleanup of the river and of polluted property in Pittsfield, is of less significance than what Pittsfield does next. At this point it hasn't done anything beyond lawyering up to nitpick and fight the EPA plan.

Governor Charlie Baker has rolled out the red carpet for GE's move to Boston but there is no indication that he has employed the financial incentives provided to GE as leverage to persuade it to agree to the EPA's cleanup proposal. We're all part of the same state. The Housatonic River Initiative, Berkshire Natural Resources and the river advocate Mr. Alsop have effectively made that point.


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