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Great Lakes Article:

Action Alert: Challenge Fox River PCB Settlement

From Wisconsin Wetlands Association

 07/22/2002

Your letters are needed! We must challenge the recent settlement proposed for Georgia-Pacific Corporation to pay $14.5 million as compensation for the severe PCB contamination of the Fox River and Green Bay in Northeast Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.

This is only a slightly higher settlement than the failed proposal made last year, which was rejected. Now, however, the Bush Administration appears to have neutered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA, who had been our champions on this issue under the Clinton Administration. The feds are actually signing on to this travesty.

 

Please click here for action alert details:

http://www.foxriverwatch.com/nrda/nrda_action.html

If you're short on time, you can print and send this ready-made letter

(due by August 3):

http://www.foxriverwatch.com/nrda/sample_letter.html

Here's a short list of our objections:

1. The settlement is only 20% of Georgia-Pacific's 22% share of the $333 million which the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reported was the minimal compensation due to the public. The $333 was a very conservative figure which did not include several major factors of economic losses due to PCBs. G-P should pay $73 million at a minimum. $73 million is already a seriously compromised figure.

2. This is the first of 7 settlements with the corporations responsible for dumping PCBs in the system. It sets a terrible precedent. The other corporations will demand equal sweetheart deals. If this happens, the public could see a total compensation of only about $65 million, which would be outrageously low.

3. This surprise settlement is premature. Next month, the governments are due to announce 2 major plans. The final Restoration Plan will set the groundrules for how all the compensation dollars should be spent, from all the companies. The Record of Decision by EPA will be the final plan on how strong the PCB sediment cleanup will be. The public shouldn't be expected to comment on G-P's individual settlement until we know the big picture plans the settlement should fit in to.

4. Far too much of this settlement is for human park and recreation enhancements. According to extensive public surveys a few years ago by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the public placed highest priority on spending compensation dollars to stop toxicity. Second highest priority was to protect and enhance fisheries and wildlife habitat. Third highest were projects to stop land run-off pollution. Only a very distant fourth were human recreational enhancements. The money needs to be spent following the public's priorities.

5. Northern communities are neglected All of the recreation dollars are targeted for Brown County communities only, where Georgia- Pacific operates. None are planned for Door, Oconto, or Marinette Counties, or for Upper Michigan communities on the northern Bay, which also have serious PCB fish-eating warnings and wildlife injuries due to Fox River pollution. If recreation is the goal, then the northern people should have equal access to these recreation dollars. In addition, all the land purchases for wildlife habitat are on the Bay's westshore, with nothing for the eastshore, Michigan or Door County, though most of the Bay's PCBs are concentrated up the Door County shoreline.

6. Inflated settlement dollars. Several discrepancies appear between last year's proposed dollar values and this year's in the settlement details. For example, last year's land acquisition value for the Peshtigo Marsh property was much lower than this year's high land value. Only 363 more acres of land were added to this year's settlement, but the dollar values rose by $5 million. This equals $13,774 per acre added, which does not seem reasonable for wetlands with no development potential. This must be investigated and corrected, if faulty. The public is owed a full $73 million, not to be achieved through inflating the value of the settlement projects.

7. This sets a bad precedent nationwide. The Fox River Natural Resources Damage Assessment is one of the biggest and best researched cases in the country. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service spent $10 million over 7 years to write it, using more than 80 world- class experts to research and write extensive documents regarding PCB damages to the fisheries and wildlife of the region. Polluters and regulators are watching this case very closely. If a super-documented case like ours can be ignored and compromised away, then the other cases to come will suffer too. (Kalamazoo River, Hudson River, etc.) On the other hand, if we make the documentation stick and hold firm on the damage figures, this could set a positive precedent.

Your letters will be shared with the federal judge (a good one!) who must approve the settlement. He can order the negotiators to go back and correct problems.

Please help! Send your letter today!

 

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