||Citizens Go to Court
Proposed PCB Settlement with G-P
Help Clean The
River and Bay!
|News release: August 2, 2002
the legal details
Green Bay, WI --- Today, a local citizens’ group filed a Motion to Intervene in federal court in Milwaukee, to increase the federal, state and tribal governments’ proposed final settlement with Georgia-Pacific Corporation (G-P, formerly Fort James Corporation).
The settlement attempts to resolve G-P’s liabilities for natural resource damages on the Fox River and Green Bay, due to toxic PCBs discharged by the company.
“The governments have ignored the evidence and public wishes, and undercut our right to compensation. We have no choice but to challenge this settlement,” stated Rebecca Katers, Executive Director of Clean Water Action Council.
“It sets a terrible precedent for all the other settlements to come," Katers added.
“We are seeking to get involved at the federal court level to ensure there is enough money to restore or compensate for the damages,” said Melissa K. Scanlan, Executive Director of Midwest Environmental Advocates. Attorney Scanlan is representing Clean Water Action Council in this effort.
In November 2000, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in its $10 million, 7-year study, the “Restoration and Compensation Determination Plan,” had calculated that the PCB pollution has caused $176 to $333 million in damages. (The higher figure applies if damages continue another 40 years, which they will.) This was a conservative assessment which ignored many factors, such as damages to Lake Michigan, commercial fishing businesses, discouraged sport anglers, drinking water, swimming, harbor and marina maintenance, wildlife sicknesses, and human medical costs and lost work. The damages were primarily based on currently active sport anglers.
According to a DNR study, Georgia-Pacific’s share of responsibility for the PCB damages is $22.5%; therefore, G-P’s share of $333 million should be $73 million, at a minimum.
Yet this recent settlement requires G-P to provide only $8.5 million, plus a few land acquisition projects for an unspecified dollar amount.
The citizens’ Motion to Intervene alleges other shortcomings, such as the premature nature of a final settlement for natural resource damages before a final cleanup plan has been chosen.
In addition, the settlement dollars are focused too heavily on human recreation enhancements, such as walking trails, parking lots and shelters. Public surveys showed that the public placed higher priority on water quality and wildlife habitat improvements.
“A few boat ramps and paths are not going to cut it,” said Curt Andersen, of Clean Water Action Council.
Furthermore, the settlement recreation dollars would be spent exclusively in Brown County, neglecting other northern counties, and Michigan, which have also suffered severe PCB damages.
Twelve members of Clean Water Action Council, from 5 different counties, have come forward to explain how the proposed settlement harms them, in affidavits to the judge:
“I stopped eating fish from the Bay because of the PCBs. My children’s ability to safely eat the fish has been stolen from them,” according to William Heffernan, whose family has used a bayshore cottage in Dyckesville for several decades.
Clean Water Action Council is a non-profit citizen group, funded primarily by local dues and donations, based in Green Bay with members throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The group formed in 1985 to work for the cleanup and prevention of toxic pollution problems in the area. Website: www.foxriverwatch.com
Midwest Environmental Advocates is a non-profit environmental law center which represents environmental groups, and local and tribal governments. Website: www.midwest-e-advocates.org
For more information contact: Melissa Scanlan, Midwest Environmental Advocates (608) 575-1408, or Rebecca Katers, Clean Water Action Council (920) 437-7304.
Go to Compensation and Restoration section of FoxRiverWatch.com
New! ---- Read the legal details
Correction:The government lawyers now admit that the G-P settlement is worth only $10.86 million, not the $16.1 million which was claimed to the news media. The public was told a highly inflated value.
CONTENT BY: Rebecca Leighton Katers
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