Using rail would reduce truck traffic for waste material designated for off-site disposal

Letter Text (PDF)

Washington (March 20, 2024) - Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety,?and Senator Elizabeth Warren (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 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, while also failing to provide a clear roadmap on how it plans to handle material cleaned up from further downstream. An approach that centers solely on truck transportation fails to take into consideration the efficiency, environmental, public health, and climate benefits of rail transportation, while also ignoring concerns from local stakeholders, public officials, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s concerns. 

As a result, Senators Markey and Warren 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. 

In the letter to CEO Culp, Senators Markey and Warren wrote, “With a truck-centric focus, the proposal fails to sufficiently consider the efficiency, environmental, public health, and climate benefits of rail transportation. 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.”

The senators continued, “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. 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.”