March 20, 2024

Senators Warren, Markey Urge General Electric to Better Examine Use of Rail for Housatonic River Clean-Up

Using Rail Would Reduce Truck Traffic For Waste Material Designated For Off-Site Disposal 

Text of Letter (PDF) 

Washington D.C. – Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) urged General Electric (GE) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Culp, Jr. to fix its proposed “On-Site and Off-Site Transportation and Disposal Plan” to better evaluate how rail transportation could be used in the clean-up of the Housatonic River, which was contaminated by toxic chemicals decades after GE manufacturing waste was dumped into the river.  

GE’s current proposal heavily relies on truck transportation for its on-site disposal options, fails to provide a clear roadmap for handling cleaned up material from further downstream, and ignores concerns from local stakeholders, public officials, and the Environmental Protection Agency.  

“With a truck-centric focus, the proposal fails to sufficiently consider the efficiency, environmental, public health, and climate benefits of rail transportation,” the senators wrote. “It also ignores both local concerns and recent statements from the state-owned Housatonic Railroad rail line, which expressed interest in working with GE to ensure that the rail infrastructure is able to transport waste material.” 

“Public officials representing six towns affected by the Rest of River clean-up have clearly expressed their support for the use of rail ... These leaders highlight multiple benefits of prioritizing rail transport over trucks, including reducing vehicular traffic, protecting public health, limiting disruption to residents, and decreasing wear on municipal infrastructure,” the senators continued. “We urge you to listen to these key local stakeholders, as well as to the EPA, as you continue to work on the transport proposal and remedy its inadequacies.” 

Senators Warren and Markey called on GE to resubmit a transportation and disposal plan that fully considers rail systems and their ability to dispose of waste materials, including on the furthest downstream reaches of the Rest of River clean-up.  

Senator Warren has fought for the Housatonic River clean-up project to prioritize expert opinions, local stakeholders, and environmental standards:

  • In April 2023, Senator Warren sent a letter to David W. Cash, Regional Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 1, requesting answers about the GE-Pittsfield/Housatonic River Site EPA Cleanup after its final permit decision was appealed by five parties.

  • In February 2020, Senator Warren issued a statement on the Housatonic River Agreement.

  • In February 2018 Senators Warren and Markey and Representative Richard Neal sent a letter to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt calling on him to uphold the EPA's 2016 decision that contaminated material removed during the Housatonic River "Rest of River" clean-up project must be deposited out of state.