Article

GE & PCBs: CHAMBER CHATTERING CHEAPLY & CHEESILY, plus iBERKSHIRES.com teams with PLANET to BLOW BB out of the WATER on CEDS

BY DAN VALENTI

On Jan. 21, 2011, the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce sent a “Key Legislative Alert” e-mail to its members. The “red-phone bulletin” tried to drum up support for a “low-impact solution that still meets EPA health standards” regarding the polluted Housatonic River.

This seemingly innocuous letter hides much and reveals more.

HIDDEN

  • This letter is unsigned. The tone is distant, corporate, and likely a product of writing-by -committee, a tactic used by the fearful. The approach violates one of the great principles of argumentative writing: “Own Your Words.” Clearly, no one in authority at the Chamber wanted to “own” this document.
  • Nowhere does the Chamber disclose its membership in 1Berkshires, a shadowy “economic development” agency made up of the boards from the Chamber, Berkshire Visitors Bureau, and Berkshire Creative Inc.
  • Hiding the affiliation thus disguises General Electric’s $300,000 contribution for “start-up” fees for 1Berkshire.
  • 1Berkshire formed in April 2010, has taken GE’s blood money, and has launched but one public initiative its near-year of existence: The group has come out publicly and strongly for a “low-impact” response to GE’s pollution of the Housatonic River. The “low-impact solution” matches GE’s official position on the cleanup like the Bobsey Twins looking in the mirror.
  • The Chamber letter mentions the completed Phase 1 cleanup of the first two miles of the Housatonic, in what it calls “a mostly industrial area of Pittsfield.” The letter says Phase 1 included “significant dredging” that “permanently changed the landscape of the river.” In this false implications of damage, the Chamber hides the fact that the dredging removed the PCBs, opened up pleasant sigh lines along the river banks, and included restorative plant life. Yes, “it permanently changed the landscape” for the public good.

REVEALED

  • The Chamber’s disingenuousness: Nowhere does the Chamber explain how it reached the conclusion that GE’s plan is best for Pittsfield. Where’s the data, the science? Why do most environmental authorities and experts in PCBs reject the GE plan?
  • Did GE use the $300,000 to buy the Chamber’s integrity? One could argue the letter illustrates as much.
  • Also revealed: The Chamber’s unreasonableness in relying on an emotional rather than a scientific argument. Removing PCBs from the river in Phase II (Pomeroy Avenue in Pittsfield to Woods Pond in Lenoxdale), the Chamber claims, “would devastate the River,” kill tourism, destroy the local economy, and wreck our “quality of life for years, if not forever.”  Wait just a minute: Didn’t GE do all of the above when it polluted the Housatonic and Silver Lake, only to take 14,000 jobs from Pittsfield?
    • Didn’t GE devastate the river?
    • Didn’t GE kill tourism?
    • Didn’t GE destroy the local economy?
    • Didn’t GE wreck “our quality of life for years, if not forever?”

As Chamber head, The Planet believes Mike Supranowicz approved this exercise in bias, manipulation, and deception. If he had nothing to do with it, then how lame of a duck is he as prez? Maybe on that day, Jan’ 17, Supranowicz was in Fairfield, Conn., like shining Jeff Imelt’s shoes.

Here is the full text of the Chamber’s letter that you weren’t supposed to see:

Dear Berkshire Chamber Members:

We need your help. We have an opportunity to make a difference on a very important matter affecting our community, but we must act by January 31, 2011.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is about to make a recommendation on Phase II of the Housatonic River clean up, running from Pomeroy Avenue south to Woods Pond in Lenoxdale. As you may recall, Phase I, which has been completed, was located in a mostly industrial area in Pittsfield. It included a significant dredging effort which permanently changed the landscape of the River.

Phase II of the River flows through mainly wildlife and residential areas. Extensive dredging would devastate the River and negatively impact tourism, the Berkshire County economy and our quality of life for years, if not forever. We cannot allow this to happen. It is important that we advocate for a low-impact solution that still meets the EPA human health standards.

We need your help to achieve this, and we must act quickly. The EPA is accepting comments until January 31, 2011 on the plan submitted by General Electric to clean up of the Rest of the River. Please add your voice to the Smart Clean Up Coalition. It is vital that the EPA hear from as many citizens and business leaders as possible so they may make an informed decision for a low-impact solution. Thank you in advance for your assistance with this very important initiative.

You can help by writing an email or letter to the EPA voicing your support for a low-impact clean-up solution that does not include extensive dredging and should include any other comments as to why you feel it is important to save the integrity of the river.

Possible actions:

• Write an Email: Become a Fan of our Smart Clean-Up Coalition on Facebook www.facebook.com/smartrivercleanup and click on Get Involved at the top, then click on Email the EPA


• Voice your support in an e-mail to: Murphy.jim@epa.gov



• Write a Letter: Visit the following website and write a letter to the EPA http://www.epa.gov/ne/ge/contactinfo.html

• Voice your support through a letter addressed to:

Mr. Jim Murphy
Community Involvement Coordinator
EPA New England, Region 1
5 Post Office Square – Ste 100
Boston, MA 02109-3912

• Please also copy our federal and state Legislative Delegations:

Christopher N. Speranzo (3rd Berkshire District)
152 North Street Suite 32
Pittsfield, MA 01201
E-Mail: Rep.ChristopherSperanzo@Hou.State.MA.US

William “Smitty” Pignatelli (4th Berkshire District)
PO Box 2228
Lenox, MA 01240
Email: Rep.SmittyPignatelli@hou.state.ma.us

Benjamin B. Downing
7 North Street, Suite 307
Pittsfield, MA. 01201
Email: bdowning@bendowning.org

Congressman John Olver
78 Center Street
Pittsfield, MA 01202


Senator John Kerry
Springfield Federal Building
1550 Main Street – Suite 304
Springfield, MA 01101
Electronic contact: http://kerry.senate.gov/contact/



Senator Scott Brown
2400 JFK Building
Boston, MA 02203
Electronic contact: http://scottbrown.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contactme

———————— 

Still too Many Questions Unanswered by 1Berkshire

The revelation of GE feed money — which 1Berkshire first tried to hide, second flatly denied in a lie, and third had to admit it thanks to an aggressive media that included David Scribner of the Berkshire Record as well as The Planet — changed everything. Even if a less-invasive cleanup IS the best way to proceed, 1Berkshire’s deceit has grievously damaged the argument for it.

1Berkshire has yet to publicly reveal the identity of the other “various organizations, institutions, and businesses” (words from its Facebook page) that have given the group money. It has yet to identify the amount of money. It has yet to give an accounting of what the money has been used for or where it is.

Without answering these questions — especially given the fact that it was caught lying about GE’s financial support while pushing for a GE solution to pollution — no reasonable person in or outside of Berkshire County can take 1Berkshire seriously.

—————————————–

iBerkshires.com Complements Planet Coverage on CEDS

Tomorrow is the CEDS (community economic development strategy) meeting at BRPC offices on the second floor of 1 Fenn St./100 North St. (the First Aggie building). The Planet believes this is the penultimate meeting. Eight-two projects have been received and after almost six months, the committee stands divided on the quality of the projects and how the projects were ranked.

Andy McKeever (see below) had a story following the February meeting that quotes committee members in discontent. As The Planet wrote last week, unfortunately CEDS projects often get recommended to the feds based on politics and not on merit.

Committee members include Kristine Hazzard, Roger Bolton, Heather Boulger (ABSENT FOR FEBRUARY), Marya LaRoche, Kevin O’Donnell, Keith Girouard, Mike Nuvallie, Laury Epstein, Mike Supranowicz, Lauri Klefos, Michael Hoffman, Christine Ludwiszewski, Eleanore Velez, Deanna Ruffer (ABSENT FOR FEBRUARY). Ann Dobrowolski, Helena Fruscio, Tim Geller, Robert Wilson (ABSENT FOR FEBRUARY), Brenda Burdick, and Mark Berman.

Anything less than 100% attendance will be another slap in the face of the bedraggled and long-suffering local Little Guys.

The CEDS committee are by virtue of their membership city employees. The committee is part of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. BPRC member Nat Karns, Thomas Matuszko, Daniel Sexton, and Mark Mallow moderate the meetings.

Another Way the Boring Broadsheet Fails the Community

Pittsfield has not had a successful CEDS project approved by the federal government (Department of Commerce) for 10 years. Since The Planet put the otherwise “secret” (technically, they’re not, but in effect they were, in true elitist fashion) CEDs meetings in the spotlight, iBerkshires.com has presented monthly coverage. The Boring Broadsheet, in typical gutless fashion, ignores this issue. We say “gutless” because the CEDs process for a decade has degenerating into a bad joke, completely unsuccessful in delivering economic relief to Berkshire County while rewarding the “connected” with a obituary filler.

Andy McKeever is iBerkshire.com presented this story on Feb. 16, putting the BB to shame:

CEDS Members Unhappy With Project Rankings

By Andy McKeever

iBerkshires Staff

09:50AM / Wednesday, February 16, 2011

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Local leaders developing a regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy feel the process has major flaws.

An 18-member committee led by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission has finished prioritizing 82 prospective local development projects but on Tuesday said the criteria was flawed.

The committee is attempting to create a document for both grant funding and an overarching strategy for the county. The projects were ranked by members according to 2004 criteria, and BRPC ranked the projects separately on criteria set for the federal Economic Development Administration. The two rankings will comprise lists of the top projects eligible for EDA funding and the top projects for the county.

“A lesson we learned as a staff is that we need to do a better job understanding the project,” Thomas Matuszko, BRPC assistant director, said. “We need to do a much better job working with project proponents.”

The committee will send the prioritized list to the proponents and ask for comments to make sure the committee did not miss major details.

The rankings can be seen at the bottom of this story; the criteria and more information on the projects are available here.

The proposals ranged widely in detail and presentation, and the criteria failed to address some issues, the members said.

“The lack of work-force development blew my mind and there was such a lack of public-private partnerships,” Kristine Hazzard, president of Berkshire United Way, said. “I didn’t even want to score some of them and then some of the ones that I thought were the best scored low.”

——————————————

AND ON AND ON WE JOURNEY, UNTIL LATER. LOVE TO ALL.

18 Responses to “GE & PCBs: CHAMBER CHATTERING CHEAPLY & CHEESILY, plus iBERKSHIRES.com teams with PLANET to BLOW BB out of the WATER on CEDS”

  1. GMHeller
    March 7, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    Mr. Valenti,

    The Berkshire Chamber of Commerce in its email (and its 1Berkshire spin-off via Facebook) have omitted informing the public of a significant — even critical — point.

    The Wall Street Journal reported a significant news story the day before Christmas on data GE released just a day earlier.
    (No doubt GE management intended that the news should be reported in the main stream press during the holiday rush when it would receive little, if any, notice.)
    But here it is and it is of significant import to Berkshire County residents concerned about a thorough remediation of GE’s PCBs in the Berkshire environment:

    In the WSJ report, G.E. acknowledges spending $1.33 Billion (so far) cleaning-up its PCB’s in New York’s Hudson River downriver of the company’s Fort Edward plant where the company also claims it released (dumped) 1.3 Million pounds of PCB’s into that river’s environment.

    Based on those numbers (if they are not updated again in a few years), it would appear to cost at least $1023 (one thousand, twenty-three dollars) per pound to clean-up PCB’s once the chemical compound is loose in the environment.

    Now the significance locally is this:
    That 1.3 million pounds of PCB’s dumped into the Hudson River is less — repeat LESS!!! — than the number of pounds of PCB’s dumped into Silver Lake and Housatonic River.

    G.E.’s own engineers claim at least 1.5 million pounds of PCB’s were dumped into the lake and river (and that amount does not include tons of toxic substances leaching out of landfills, known and unknown, throughout Greater Pittsfield). But it also means there are 0.2 million pounds more PCB’s loose in the Housatonic River environment than in the Hudson River!

    Using the Hudson River numbers as a benchmark, that means that it would cost about $1.534 billion to remediate thoroughly the 1.5 Million pounds of PCB’s disposed of into the Housatonic River, Silver Lake, Woods Pond, and Housatonic River flood plain environments. (That’s assuming G.E. does the same thorough
    remediation it’s doing in New York State.)

    G.E. and the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce via 1Berkshire (supported by $300,000 of G.E. money) are lobbying for a ‘low-impact’ remediation, what is being called ‘monitored natural recovery’ (otherwise known as ‘watching, but doing nothing’).

    What is left unspoken is that any ‘low-impact’ proposal will coincidentally save G.E. having to expend most
    of that above-mentioned $1.534 billion.

    Bottom line: By shortchanging Berkshire County’s clean-up and leaving all G.E.’s poisons on site and in place, G.E. is trying to save itself big bucks — really big bucks (making that paltry $300,000 invested with 1Berkshire seem like a very good deal indeed for G.E. if the charade pans out and the public is duped into supporting G.E.’s proposal).

    Please note that if U.S.E.P.A. so orders, G.E. will be required to clean up its Berkshire mess or face an uphill battle in federal court.

    Also please note, any full-scale remediation would mean job, jobs, jobs at the numerous remediation sites — all at union pay scales — and these would be projects lasting many years, with the entire remaining remediation taking likely a decade or more.

    G.E.’s $1.534 billion trickling down throughout the entire Berkshire economy over that lengthy period would be a huge stimulus in an area where unemployment now exceeds 8%.

    Here’s a link to that Wall Street Journal entitled:
    ‘GE to Finish Cleanup Project — Further Hudson River Dredging Prompts $500 Million Fourth-Quarter Charge’
    By Doug Cameron And Paul Glader, published Dec. 24, 2010.
    Link:
    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:-cIuEoV4dzAJ:online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704278404576037430328524852.html+GE+to+Finish+Cleanup+Project&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&source=www.google.com

  2. danvalenti
    March 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    GMH
    Agreed. This would seem to provide economic precedent. It also makes the $10 million over 10 years (in lieu of taxes) take on its paltry insignificance. Do you know if the company has ever provided a complete and definitive list of total amounts of poisons. We can start with the 1.5 million pounds of PCBs but how much of other toxins? Thanks for sharing this information with my readers.

    • GMHeller
      March 7, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

      Mr. Valenti,

      One thing that appears especially galling is that although the amount of PCB’s dumped into Silver Lake and Housatonic River environments surpass the amount dumped into the Hudson River by more than 15%, there have never been any G.E. press release reported in the Wall Street Journal about G.E. taking a charge of $500 million or a charge of $830 million or any charge for an amount of any real substance that would imply that G.E. is actively addressing the pollution it left and is taking the matter with utmost seriousness and attention.
      It is as if the Housatonic River is the ugly step-child getting a few crumbs shoved its way, while the Hudson River is getting the bulk of the company’s attention and resources.
      My guess is that this is primarily the result of far more voters living along the Hudson River valley than along the Housatonic River just 27 miles away.

      The following press release from October 2010 (linked below) is typical of G.E’s. whole attitude towards the pollution in the Housatonic River and the poisons it has left throughout Berkshire County.
      Note the company’s almost dismissive tone both in the headline as well as in the news copy (most likely sent out as a press release from GE’s Fairfield CT headquarters).
      Headline: ‘GE will do some dredging to clean up Housatonic River’
      “General Electric Co. said Wednesday it now agrees that some dredging of PCBs in the Housatonic River in western Massachusetts could help clean the river, but again recommended leaving the carcinogens buried.”

      (Some dredging?)

      Compare the above to the tone of G.E.’s press release (also linked below) to the Wall Street Journal:

      Headline: “GE to Finish Cleanup Project –
      Further Hudson River Dredging Prompts $500 Million Fourth-Quarter Charge”
      “General Electric Co. said Thursday that it will take a $500 million charge in the fourth quarter to help fund an environmental cleanup of the Hudson River that the conglomerate said it plans to complete during the next five to seven years….
      The U.S. company said it would press ahead with the second and most comprehensive stage of dredging harmful chemicals discharged by two of its plants into the Hudson River in upstate New York.
      GE said it already has spent $830 million on the Hudson cleanup effort. The company had dumped roughly 1.3 million pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, legally over a number of decades before the toxic chemicals were banned in 1977.”

      Remember, G.E. dumped far more PCB’s into the Housatonic River than it ever did into the Hudson River, yet the Hudson is getting the full remediation treatment, while the Housatonic is grudgingly getting ‘some’ dredging.

      Link:
      http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:GuQlzBWj_1QJ:www.rep-am.com/articles/2010/10/18/business/513524.txt%3Fp%3D3+GE+take+charge+Housatonic&cd=5&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&source=www.google.com

      Link:
      http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:-cIuEoV4dzAJ:online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704278404576037430328524852.html+GE+to+Finish+Cleanup+Project&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&source=www.google.com

  3. PCP
    March 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    Dan, when hill 78 had some attention, the test results (raw test data )showed approximately 35 out of 39 hits for Benzine, plus an assortment of other nasty chemical toxins. The actual test results are public record. The lady in charge from EPA or DEP said they were only concentrating on PCB’s and the rest of the chemical materials were not in their mission statement,so they didn’t have to look at them. I’m not sure what it all means, but would you move a company
    into this place? What did Mayor Dolye really do in Boston?

  4. rick
    March 7, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    once they accepted that money it tainted the whole body, thus rendering them moot, any thing they say or do now will always be questioned, i think that would make them ineffective.

  5. PCP
    March 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    Dan, there are NO private sector people on the 18 member committee, GD does not count as it is all public(taxpayer) money.
    iBerkshires, nice job. I think it’s time to reshuffile the chairs on the Titanic, not to sink it, but to get it to float with power – REAL JOBS

    VERY SERIOUSLY, WHY DON’T THE CHAMBER LEADERSHIP,
    1BERKSHIRE, and BRPC HAVE A REAL SENSE OF COMMUNITY?

  6. Browning
    March 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    Where to begin. The GE poisoning of Pittsfield and the city’s complacency with it are odd. Why are city leaders so afraid? Have they been bought off? PCBs and other such pollutants are not inert. The migrate. The river is sick. $2 billion from GE might begin to mitiagate the circumstances. On the CEDS, wow, is that true, PCP. NO private sector representation. I though, as Valenti write, that a stipulation is heavy private representation? How corrupt can this town get?

  7. toto
    March 8, 2011 at 5:53 am #

    The new pothole machine that was purchased by Barrett is junk. It only works under certain conditions. Just thought I would add this to our pollution discussion. After all, we have to still keep our eye on the ball. It doesn’t work during snow season, period! Now, as far as the pcb-chemical in the environment problem, unless there are powerful people in position that want to take on this enormous court wrangling, you might as well forget about it, because there is absolutely no one that wants to take it on. Just be careful what you eat and drink and never go into the Housy!

    • GMHeller
      March 8, 2011 at 6:29 am #

      @Toto, you write, “Just be careful what you eat and drink and never go into the Housy!”
      Yeah, and you just as well ought to be careful living anywhere around Silver Lake or breathing the air within a mile downwind of that body.

      Does anyone anywhere have a complete list of all the chemicals presently circulating in the waters of Silver Lake?

  8. toto
    March 8, 2011 at 7:19 am #

    @ GM, my response is the whole city, and was just using the Housy as an example as it does run throughout the county. With that being said, any Lake that has fog eminating from it during a hot summer day and smells like chlorox bleach burning from a wick should be taken seriously also. Any properties with trace amouts as the East street site proposed for the DPW should be eliminated from any discussion for that facility moving forward. Saw a serous pothole in front of the fifty block on Williams Street today, you would think Barrett would drag his new machine down there and fix it.

  9. Son of Samantha
    March 8, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    I think I know the pothole you mention, toto. Got my car the other day. Dipped in the hole and ripped the exhuast pipe clean off the car. Thank you, city of pittsfield, for the years of neglect while you fattened the paychecks of the teachers and otherwise gave away the store As for pollution, only a financial settlement in the billions from ge will help the pain the city suffered from its poisns

  10. Payroll Patriot
    March 8, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    Palookaville snow job
    Once upon a time, Jan. 2010, the Big Wind from the North aka Barrett was hired by Chief Hot Air Ruberto to save the village(Pittsfield) as Chief Hot Air had not done it. Big Wind stated on the empty head radio show that he would return all his salary to Palookaville (Pittsfield) if he did not save that amount of money by not using salt on the roads. Chief Hot Air months later stated also on the empty head radio show that Big Wind from the North saved Palookaville the money. NO facts, just as empty head states’ it’s really hot in here. The council chiefs just add more hot air.
    Fast forward winter 2010-11: Big Wind from North still in Palookaville, now known to some as Assistant Chief Hot Air 1. More to follow. But back to the story, Assistant Chief Hot Air 1 states Palookaville has a bare pavement snow policy; let us now use more salt and less sand. As a result pothole land takes off your tires, shocks, etc. Council chiefs had purchased a hot patch vehicle two years ago for 45K, so there would be no more pothole problems in the promised land. Now, 126k more wampum to reach the promised land of no/fewer potholes. All the little Indians have to give up more wampum for all the HOT AIR decisions and we still will not reach the promised land.

  11. Big Chief Barroom Politics
    March 8, 2011 at 8:20 am #

    @Payrll Patriot, Hilarious! Chief Big Wind from North has done great magic in the village. How we know? Him tell us so. He want more wampum to purchase Great Iron Horse Warm Patch Pothole Machine. Him think all then indians are dumb. village hope that cavalry come in and rescue the f***ed-over ordinary citizens brave like me and us

  12. toto
    March 8, 2011 at 9:01 am #

    I like the post, payroll. But please leave the Indians out of it. Barrett is now affectionately referred as Uncle Fester. And were fessing up the money for his useless contraption.

    • Joetaxpayer
      March 8, 2011 at 9:55 am #

      Cannot afford magic pot hole machine,stop spending money.Must find ways to cut spending,go to tote system, garbage is not free.Tote system cuts down on volume of garbage and forces more recycling.

    • danvalenti
      March 8, 2011 at 11:24 am #

      Unlce Fester: hmmm, yes. I can see the humor in it! Does that make Mayor Ruberto Gomez? Who’s Morticia, Pugsley, Cousin It, Lurch, and Wednesday? That will be fun to cast.

  13. GMHeller
    March 8, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    RE: The potent carcinogens in Silver Lake

    The Berkshire Eagle ran a very sad obituary today concerning the untimely death of one of its long-time employees, Alinda Shank.
    If Alinda Shank’s tragic passing at age 52 from a rare brain cancer does not drive home the point to Berkshire County residents that living ANYWHERE near Silver Lake is dangerous to one’s health, then nothing else will.
    Note that Mr. and Mrs. Shank’s residence on Plunkett Street is less than one-half mile north of Silver Lake as the crow flies — and as the wind blows.
    Mr. & Mrs. Shank, according to the MassLandRecords Web site, purchased their Plunkett Street home in January 1999.
    According to today’s Berkshire Eagle, Ms. Shank was diagnosed with brain cancer in October 2009.
    That is less than eleven years after moving to the Silver Lake area.
    Now she has passed away.
    The tons of chemical carcinogens in Silver Lake are going to remain until they are removed.

    SEE: ‘Eagle ‘den mother’ passes away at 52′
    http://www.berkshireeagle.com/ci_17560917

    SEE: Map showing Plunkett Street and Silver Lake.
    http://maps.yahoo.com/#mvt=m&lat=42.4547&lon=-73.23922&zoom=16&q1=115%20Plunkett%20St%2C%20Pittsfield%2C%20MA%2001201&q2=4th%20st%20%26%20silver%20lake%20blvd%2C%20pittsfield%2C%20ma