National Policy Analysis Logo

 # 381  

 December 2001




The Grinch Who Stole Our Business

by Christopher Burger

 

Every Person in Hudson Liked Freedom a lot
But the EPA, Which worked in Washington, Did NOT!
They ruined our Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

Just as in the Dr. Suess story, a Grinch is threatening to spoil Christmas - in this case, for the people of a small New York town. Hudson Falls business owner Judy Dean, who owns a small marina on the Hudson River, will likely suffer unneeded economic hardship because the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) insists on dredging the river to remove chemical residue. Many locals oppose the federal intervention, and evidence suggests that the EPA's solution to this "problem" may only cause more environmental hazards. 1

Between 1947 and 1977, the nearby General Electric plant legally dumped polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River. PCBs were outlawed in 1976 under the false assumption that they caused liver cancer. While initial studies 25 years ago found PCBs caused liver cancer in lab rats, a later study indicated high levels of PCBs in the blood of G.E. workers had no correlation to higher cancer rates.2 Even though PCBs were found to not be a human cancer risk, President Bill Clinton decided - in the last few days of his administration - that nearly 40 miles of the Hudson River should be dredged to remove the remaining chemicals.3

Ironically, the Hudson River is cleaner today than it was just a few decades ago. PCB levels in fish in the Hudson River have been declining.4 Considering that the EPA still erroneously believes that PCBs are toxic, why would they support a project that would release them into the water again instead of letting them remain safely entombed underneath river sediment?

Another problem with the EPA's plan is that it is not known where the sludge that is to be dredged from the river will be dumped. Initial reports indicated that the sludge will be dumped on land used by dairy farmers near Hudson Falls. When this plan encountered local opposition, the EPA said it would dump the sediment outside of Hudson Falls. However, the EPA still refuses to say where it plans to dump the alleged toxins.5

"The EPA has had ample opportunity to be open with the residents of the Upper Hudson River," says Jane Havens, vice-president of Citizen Environmentalists Against Sludge Encapsulation, or CEASE, a local group fighting the dredging. "The EPA has a history of hiding and withholding information, and we are just their latest victim."6

In Hudson Falls, the Hudson River gets as narrow as 75 feet, although it is approximately a mile wide downstate. The dredging project would create a great deal of water traffic on this relatively narrow portion of the river, causing financial loss for marina owner Judy Dean, among others.

Nineteen barges, which are approximately 35 feet wide, will be on the river 24 hours a day throughout the duration of the project -- the specifics of which the EPA refuses to share with the residents of Hudson Falls. This barge traffic will most likely put Dean out of business. She estimates that the EPA's dredging will make her marina completely inaccessible to all commercial water traffic. She will lose 100 percent of her revenue, from gasoline sales to renting dock space. "This waterway connects us to the rest of the world," says Mrs. Dean, "and the dredging project will cut us off."7

Despite the opposition of Hudson Falls residents, the EPA insists on proceeding with the dredging project.

In "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," the Grinch finally recognized his errors and eats Christmas dinner with the Whos. Will the EPA identify its errors in Hudson Falls, and stop threatening the business of Dean and other residents? We can only hope for a cheerful ending.

 

When the government realized its regulations were too tight,
They whizzed right to Hudson through the bright morning light,
And they removed the barges! And the large ugly ferry!
And they
THEY THEMSELVES! Made Hudson Falls merry!


Footnotes:

1. Bonner Cohen, "EPA Will Destroy Hudson River to Save It." The Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2001, sec. 1, p. 18.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Interview with Jane Havens, Vice President of Citizen Environmentalists Against Sludge Encapsulation, December 12, 2001, and December 13, 2001.
6. Ibid.
7. Interview with Judy Dean, owner of Schuyler Yacht Basin, December 17, 2001.

# # #

Chris Burger is the program coordinator for the John P. McGovern M.D. Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs of The National Center for Public Policy Research. He can be reached at [email protected].




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