Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Long Battle for the Hudson River

In scanning the New York Times, I ran across the interactive time-line: "A Long Battle for the Hudson River". This time-line and related editorial deal with: "the decades-long duel between the Environmental Protection Agency and General Electric to purge the Hudson River of toxic chemicals." Now, its not unusual for a company to attempt to squirm out of cleaning-up the environment. What is interesting is the back-story.

The election of Obama, as President, promised a "Green" revolution. General Electric has joined this revolution and its moto is "Imagination at Work". The CEO of General Electric happens to be Jeff Immelt. Mr. Immelt also appears politically close to Obama who has appointed him to his Economic Recovery Advisory Board. So instead of dragging it's feet, one would assume that General Electric would be leading the charge to clean-up the Hudson River. It would make for good public relations and would be a superb demonstration of commitment to cleaning up the environment. Deeds over empty words.

Back in July of 2006 Vanity Fair wrote: "
Vanity Fair Profiles GE's Jeffrey Immelt", which stated:
"While Wal-Mart's CEO Lee Scott is likely the corporate chieftain that perplexes Treehuggers the most, General Electric's Jeffrey Immelt runs a close second. The 125-year-old company bears responsiblity for massive environmental damages over the years, including the infamous contamination of the Hudson River with PCBs in the mid-20th century. Many observers would claim that Immelt has staked out a position not far from that of his combative predecessor Jack Welch on the Hudson River issue:he is unapologetic even as he seeks to settle decades of litigation. At the same time, Immelt is also the driving force behind Ecomagination, a company campaign to revolutionize the way GE makes products and produces energy. The campaign's motto, "Green is Green," signifies a commitment to increasing shareholder value through clean technology, sustainable design and complete accountability."
While the Times is to be commended for keeping this environmental concern alive, what is regrettable is that the Times, in typical fashion, has not challenged a supposedly green CEO on why General Electric has not demonstrated leadership in meeting the green obligation of cleaning up the Hudson River. The Times does report that dredging began in May 2009, so maybe things are looking up. Finally substance over stonewalling rhetoric?

PS: We own shares in General Electric, unfortunately not enough to make a dent in how the company is managed.

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