Friday, May 14, 2010

Eco-imagination: "EPA Cleanup Tactic to Face GE Challenge in D.C. Circuit" (GE)

Mother: .....And remember, the Lord loves a working man.
Navin: ........Lord loves a working man.
Father: ......And son, don't never, ever trust whitey.
-The Jerk (1979)
GE loves government regulation. I am not being facetious. All giant businesses love regulation because they have the money to buy influence.
Regulation is their best bludgeon against smaller competitors.

Regulation can provide the highest return on investment that a corporation achieves, dwarfing R&D, efficiency, advertising, training or any of the myriad of tools in the manager's toolbox.
Returns from lobbying on the order of 1000:1 are not uncommon.

But should it not be in their financial interest to back a regulator they will fight with every weapon they can buy.
Witness the monumental battle to get GE to clean up their PCB filth in the Hudson river, 30 years of delays and dissimulation.

I am bemused watching the eco-hypocrisy of GE, when their attorneys or P.R. flaks speak I always hear Richard Ward's gravelly voice say "And son, don't never, ever trust whitey".

From Greenwire via the New York Times :
Attorneys for General Electric Co. and U.S. EPA will debate the constitutionality in federal appeals court next week of a legal weapon often used by the agency to force the cleanup of the nation's most contaminated sites.

The case, General Electric Co. v. Jackson, focuses on "unilateral administrative orders," a privilege given to EPA by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, more commonly known as Superfund.

Experts say EPA's ability to issue unilateral orders is the Superfund statute's heavy artillery, a deterrent allowing officials to reach settlements with companies that might otherwise resist moving forward with cleanup. If a company balks at the order, the agency can levy penalties or treble damages -- in which case the agency remediates the toxic site itself and bills the company for three times the cost.

Companies such as GE feel that the agency has used the authority as a negotiating tool, threatening to issue orders even when their sites do not pose an imminent threat to public health or the environment, said Barry Hartman, a former Justice Department attorney now working as an environmental litigator at K&L Gates in Washington, D.C.

"Their original purpose was that if there's a dangerous situation, you want to be able to clean it up and fight about the money later," Hartman said. "It's devolved into EPA using them in a way where you could argue if this is what Congress really intended."

Justice Department attorneys are representing EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the defendant in the case.

More than 1,700 unilateral orders have been issued since the Superfund statute became law in 1980, according to court documents, and GE -- which is responsible for about 75 Superfund sites -- has been a frequent target. The company filed suit to challenge the orders in 2000, claiming that they violate the constitutional right to due process by forcing companies to incur expenses without being able to make their case in court....MORE

I'm thinking it might be time to revisit the whole "Corporate Personhood" question.