Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro met his counterpart, Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, at the half-way point of the Walkway Over The Hudson to announce bipartisan action against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"We are announcing today that Dutchess County and Ulster County are joining forces to sue the EPA," Molinaro said at a podium before about 40 reporters and community leaders.
Both county executives said the EPA never should have issued a "Certificate of Completion" to General Electric for the company's clean-up of chemical contamination in the Hudson River. They plan to add an amicus brief to a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Letitia James against the EPA.
Ryan told the group he and Molinaro plan to include in the filing letters from concerned community members and memorializing resolutions of support, which several municipal boards plan to pass.
"The other thing we're going to be doing in this brief is actually bringing the human side into what's happening," Ryan said, "talking about over 100,000 people who literally depend on this water."
Between 2009 and 2015, GE managed dredging projects in the river to remove the environmentally toxic Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), which was discharged from GE facilities in Washington County into the river, between 1947 and 1977.
The AG's lawsuit claims the EPA issued the certificate of completion even though the agency's own experts had not found that GE's work qualified as "protective of human health and the environment." The AG cited sections of superfund law, claiming the EPA violated those requirements by issuing the certificate.
The county executives pointed out that PCB levels in the river's fish are still too high to lift fish consumption advisories along the river.
"The single most important argument is, the EPA acknowledges that they failed," Molinaro said emphatically. "They acknowledge that the Hudson River isn't clean and won't be clean, and you should have no expectation under this current agreement that it will achieve what was the goal to begin with."
EPA officials told Spectrum News they could not comment on their opponents' arguments, since the litigation is pending. But in official documents, they have expressed that it could be several years before they can determine whether GE lowered PCB levels enough in fish and sediment.
The AG is asking in the lawsuit that a district court judge throw out the certificate of completion and bar the EPA from reissuing it until GE's work is officially deemed "protective of human health and the environment."
In all, the legal fight could take years, during which GE would not be required to continue decontamination of the river.