"This is outrageously low compensation considering the
many past and future decades of dangerous public and wildlife
health risks caused by G-P's negligent pollution over
a large region. The economic damages have been staggering,"
stated Rebecca Katers, Executive Director of Clean Water
Action Council of N.E. Wisconsin, Inc. "This is
While we're anxious to get these issues resolved in time
for cleanup and restoration to start in the spring of
2003, we oppose this settlement for several reasons:
1. The settlement meets only 20% of
G-P's full responsibility --- We were
told last year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in
its Assessment to expect total compensation of $333 million
if the sediment clean up will take more than 40 years
to achieve its goals, which it will. According
to a DNR study, Georgia-Pacific's share of responsibility
is approximately 22% of this total, or $73 million.
If justice is to be served and fair compensation granted,
G-P needs to provide the full $73 million. Last
year in a widely criticized first draft of this settlement,
DNR claimed they were getting $55 million in benefits
for only $7 million from G-P, which was an obvious sham.
This settlement of $14.5 million is also a sham.
For more information about this recent news, contact Clean
Water Action Council, at 920-437-7304
In addition, the previous $7 million figure was supposed
to cover only the State of Wisconsin's share, and did
not include further dollars to compensate Michigan,
tribal and federal damages. Therefore, the doubling
of dollars is misleading. This is definitely not
a "better deal."
Keep in mind that the original $333 million was a conservative
estimate, a major political compromise from a higher
calculated value closer to $600 million, and even that
number did NOT include many major types of economic
damages such as:
a. Economic losses on Lake Michigan proper
(70% of waterborne PCBs in this Great Lake come from
the Fox River.)
2. Settlements in the Dark --- How can citizens
evaluate the fairness of a closed-door settlement with
Georgia-Pacific, without knowing what the final Compensation
and Restoration Plan says? (The total plan for all
the mills won't be released until later this summer.)
We're opposed to this premature piece-meal approach.
The percentage of responsibility allocated to G-P could
tell us more about the overall size of the total Restoration
Plan, but the agencies have refused to tell us their final
calculation of G-P's percentage of the total.
Citizens have a 30 day comment period starting soon, but
they aren't being given key information.
b. Economic losses over many decades due to discouraged
recreational anglers who stopped fishing or never
started due to PCBs. The losses were only calculated
for currently active anglers
c. Economic losses to many commerical fishing families
who were driven out of business, and to wholesale
and retail customers no longer able to purchase locally
d. Damage to non-adjacent counties (not on the waterfront)
with businesses and residents who were economically
harmed by the PCB contamination.
e. Damage to economic interests in Lake Trout and
Cormorants which suffered poisoning, deformities,
tumors and reproductive failure.
f. Human medical costs and lost work productivity,
which could be enormous over many decades. Roughly
40,000 people along the Fox River and Bay currently
face PCB cancer risks equal to smoking 2-3 packs of
cigarettes a day, due to their fish consumption habits.
Numerous non-cancer PCB risks (thyroid disease, diabetes,
heart disease, memory problems, learning disabilities,
etc.) may affect thousands more.
3. Wrong types of projects funded --- Almost
60% of the G-P settlement ($8.5 million) is for human
park and recreation enhancements, which was heavily
criticized a year ago. In recent years, the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service conducted numerous public
opinion surveys (at high cost) and learned that the
public placed highest priority on projects designed
to stop toxicity. Second priority was to
protect and enhance fisheries and wildlife habitat.
Third priority were projects designed to stop land run-off
pollution (non-point pollution). A distant fourth
were enhancements for human recreation, such as boat
ramps, docks, parking lots and trails. Most Northeast
Wisconsin and Upper Peninsula Michigan residents believe
we already have a lot of these human amenities, but
the waterways and wildlife deserve much more attention.
Now, it seems the federal government has abandoned the
carefully prepared and expensive Resource Compensation
Determination Plan (RCDP) which went to public hearing
and was finalized last year. Instead, G-P is being
allowed to fund high-profile local projects, and public
wishes are being ignored. G-P is allowed to make
big political points in the community where its mills
are located, while the other impacted communities get
4. Northern communities completely neglected
--- ALL of the $8.5 million in G-P recreational dollars
are targeted for Brown County communities only. NONE
are planned for Door, Oconto, Marinette Counties, or
Upper Michigana communities which also have PCB fish-eating
warnings due to Fox River pollution. If recreation
is the goal, then ALL the northern people should have
equal access to these recreation dollars.
Instead, it appears G-P has been allowed to buy-off
local officials with juicy projects, with every Brown
County municipality getting a little piece of the action.
In addition, all the land purchases for wildlife habitat
are on the Bay's westshore, with nothing for the eastshore
or Door County, though most of the PCBs are concentrated
up the Door County shoreline. The DNR claims that
future settlements with the other mills may balance
these issues better, but how can the public be sure
when we have a comment period now but won't be allowed
to see the big picture plans until later? The
DNR claims to be following the old Remedial Action Plan
which was started in 1986, but that effort was dominated
by Brown County people and included no one from the
impacted north. And that plan did not designate recreation
projects to the exclusion of wildlife habitat.
The DNR is misrepresenting and misusing the work of
a lot of people, including members of Clean Water Action
5. The Bush Administration has abandoned federal
leadership --- This G-P settlement is just a larger
version of the DNR's surprise solo $7 million fiasco
proposal in November 2000. It contains all the
same flaws which were roundly criticized by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies
at that time, under the Clinton Administration.
It's obvious that the federal government is now taking
a back seat and allowing the state to decide everything,
even though the state fought against negotiating for
ANY compensation for several years. We are
left with a token effort for one of the biggest PCB
sources on the river. The public's interest is
NOT being served.
6. The Cart Before the Horse --Under the Clinton
Administration, we were promised many times that the
Restoration Plan and individual settlements like this
couldn't be finalized until after the sediment cleanup
plan and EPA's Record of Decision are announced (later
this summer). This timing sequence was important
because the scale of the restoration is supposed to
be based on how long it takes for the sediment cleanup
to achieve results. If it takes longer, then more compensation
is due from the polluters and the dollar amount should
increase. Now, under the Bush Administration, we're
being told that it's OK for the Restoration Plan to
be released before the ROD, deliberately keeping the
public in the dark on this issue.
7. Stopping the Federal Process --- The
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (under the Bush Administration)
now tells us that they plan no "Report of Assessment,"
though this is supposed to be the final stage of the
Natural Resources Damage Assessment process.
This final report would have included a "responsiveness
summary" (the agencies' written responses to citizens'
hearing testimony and letters). Apparently citizens
wasted their time submitting written comments and testifying
at the hearings. This report would also have included
a "preliminary estimate of damages" with more complete
totals than previously reported, and a "demand for sum
certain" (a final bill to be presented to the responsible
polluters.) We were told that as long as the governments
were satisfied with the negotiated settlements, the
Report of Assessment could be skipped, because the polluters
don't want to have to pay for its preparation.
The Service says they will write the report only if
a polluter sues to oppose their portion of the Restoration
Plan. Citizens will be asked to comment on the final
proposed Restoration Plan without the benefit of this
information, and we may never have a final accounting.
Under these circumstances why should we bother to comment
8. Taypayer Costs Should Be Fully Reimbursed ---
This G-P settlement allocates only $1.6 million to reimburse
federal costs of assessment. It has been expensive
for the government to prepare the multi-document scientific
damage assessments and economic damage models.
At the end of the 8 year federal process, we were supposed
to learn what the total costs were, but that may not
happen now. We do know that at a similar site
in Montrose, California, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service assessment research process cost $35 million,
which chewed up a huge percentage of the final settlement.
Here on the Fox River and Green Bay, we must insist
that these costs are separate, and in addition to, the
compensation and restoration settlement from the polluters.
The state's costs should also be reimbursed completely.
(After all, why should taxpayers be stuck with this?)
It's obvious that G-P's $1.6 million offer isn't enough.
9. Industry Pressure Politics --- We've heard
may instances of the Fox River Group of paper industries
sending company lawyers and lobbyists to meet with our
local, state and federal agency officials and our elected
representatives, keeping up constant lobbying pressure
for weakening the cleanup and compensation plans.
Ordinary citizens have no way to balance against that
pressure, and it's obviously costing us millions of
10. Bad Precedent Being Set --- This is the
first of 7 settlements with individual corporations
which dumped PCBs in the Fox River. If G-P gets
away with paying only 20% of its responsibility, the
others will demand equal treatment. This will
be a royal rip-off for the public.