GE's "Go Green" Bamboozle

On May 10, General Electric, one of the globe’s largest companies and most notorious polluters, announced it was launching an initiative to “go green.” With great fanfare designed to maximize positive press, the company’s CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, rolled out an impressive slate of strategies and investments GE will pursue over the next 5-10 years to both green their internal operations and accelerate the development of green technologies to address global warming, water shortages and contamination, and other environmental challenges.

Even Riverkeeper -- a New York-based environmental group that has been battling GE for decades to remove the company’s PCBs from the Hudson River -- welcomes this news. Since Washington seems to have abandoned its obligation to protect Americans’ right to clean air and water, environmentalists increasingly are looking to enlightened business executives to provide American leadership on pressing environmental issues. As a company that specializes in technology solutions, GE is well positioned to effectively address many of the world’s most vexing energy and pollution problems, particularly in the areas of carbon emissions and water scarcity and pollution.

Unfortunately, the spirit of Jack Welch is alive and well at America's most profitable corporation. On the same day GE launched its green initiative, it was up to its same old dirty tricks in the nation’s capitol. As reported in the press on May 17th, the company had been conspiring to sneak a GE-drafted amendment into Congress’s EPA spending bill that would have the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) conduct yet another study examining the EPA’s 2001 decision requiring GE to dredge the upper Hudson to remove over a hundred thousand pounds of PCBs.

Enough is enough! No Superfund site in the country has been more studied than the Hudson, with over ten years of legal, scientific, technical and economic analysis. Five independent peer review panels came to the same conclusion as the EPA: dredging the upper Hudson is the most cost effective way to undo the damage caused by GE’s decades-old discharges of cancer-causing PCBs into the Hudson River.

If GE’s “Ecoimagination” is to be seen as anything more than a PR snow job, General Electric must first commit itself to a full and expeditious clean up of the Hudson River. Until then, no one -- including the company’s shareholders -- ought to take GE seriously. (By the way, an interesting little bit of research would be to see whether GE’s reported environmental liabilities match its actual environmental liabilities. With more Superfund sites than any other company in America, I highly doubt it. The SEC and GE shareholders would surely want to know if GE is cooking the books. Just a thought.)

P.S.: It was the sensible Rep. Charles Taylor, R-N.C. who snuck the NAS study provision into the EPA bill to further study dredging. Why not call him and tell him what you think? He can be reached at (202) 225-6401 and would be happy to hear from you, especially if you are a constituent.