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Cuomo needs to act on GE Hudson River pollution

Cuomo needs to act on GE Hudson River pollution

Dredging should be included in talks over GE relocating headquarters to NY

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in a pickle.

The governor is trying to come up with a new round of state financial incentives to convince General Electric Co. to relocate its corporate headquarters back in New York. The relocation could bring millions of dollars and many jobs to the state, helping boost the state's economy and helping cement the governor's claim that New York is friendly to business.

It's safe to say that it's in the governor's best interests — as the state's head economic development official and as a politician — to stay on GE's good side.

So maybe that's why the governor has stayed oddly silent on the growing chorus of opposition to General Electric ending its obligation to clean up the Hudson River.

The company's legal obligation under a 2002 federal agreement is coming to a close this fall, and the company has already announced plans to decommission a processing center in Fort Edward that's used to prepare contaminated river sediment for disposal.

It claims the river has been substantially cleaned up under the billion-dollar dredging operation and that its obligation should end when it fulfills the terms of the agreement.

But several environmental organizations say the cleanup has fallen short and that GE should be required to do more.

Hence, the pickle.

If the governor fails to act on the environmental concerns expressed about the inadequacy of the PCB cleanup, he risks the future health of the Hudson River. Yet if he forces GE's hand on the cleanup, he risks losing the economic benefits.

He has to put New Yorkers first, and that means including the environmental issues in any negotiations with GE over relocating its headquarters., as some lawmakers — including Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie — have recommended.

The governor and his economic development people can and should construct an incentive package that includes both economic incentives and a commitment from GE to fulfill its obligation to clean up the river.

They can start by demanding that the company postpone dismantling the PCB processing center until the company's future obligations are determined.

Time is running out for the state to ensure the river is cleaned up properly.

The governor can’t sit on the sidelines and pretend the issue doesn’t exist any more. He has to let GE and the residents of the state know where he stands.

And he has to do it soon.

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