AG COAKLEY AND 11 OTHER STATES SETTLE CLAIMS AGAINST "OLD GM" TO FUND NATIONAL MERCURY SWITCH RECYCLE PROGRAM
In November 2009, Attorney General Coakley filed a claim in Old GM's bankruptcy case. The claim, filed on behalf of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), asserted that Old GM was required under the Massachusetts Mercury Management Act to fund or implement a program to collect, recover, and recycle mercury-containing switches from their cars when those cars reach their "end-of-life." For years, Old GM manufactured automobiles with mercury-containing switches.
"The National Vehicle Mercury Switch Recovery Program is a cost-effective way to remove mercury from old cars and get it out of the waste stream," AG Coakley said. "This program protects children and other residents of the Commonwealth by reducing mercury that could possibly be emitted to the environment."
As a result of the settlement, the mercury switch claims of all 12 states will be resolved by way of a total allowed claim of $2,845,000. Under the settlement, payment will be made to End-of-Life-Vehicle Solutions, Inc. (ELVS) in accordance with the terms of Old GM's Plan of Liquidation. ELVS implements the NVMSRP and will use the proceeds of this settlement to cover costs of operating the program nationwide. Under the terms of the Plan of Liquidation, the actual amount to be paid to ELVS as a result of this settlement is yet to be determined. It will be related to the stock price of the currently existing company now known as General Motors Company (New GM).
Under the NVMSRP, more than 3.48 million switches have been collected and recycled, representing about 7,650 pounds of mercury that has been diverted from the waste stream, much of which would have otherwise been emitted into the environment. Roughly 54 percent of mercury-containing switches recovered from "end-of-life" vehicles to date were manufactured by Old GM.
"Massachusetts is a world leader in reducing mercury pollution, and this settlement will ensure continued progress in our on-going efforts to address mercury releases," said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth L. Kimmell. "The settlement will also guarantee that Old GM pays its fair share to prevent pollution from this toxin, keeping our children safe and healthy."
In 2006, automobile manufacturers, related industries and the United States Environmental Protection Agency jointly created a voluntary, nationally-coordinated program known as the NVMSRP. Due to the number of cars with mercury-containing switches currently in use this program will likely be needed through 2022.
After a request from Coakley and eight other states' officials in January, New GM committed to making a voluntary contribution of $4.5 million to ELVS to support the national program costs through 2017. This settlement and the New GM contribution should provide funds to cover NVMSRP costs through 2022.
Exposure to mercury can cause serious health effects to children and others by damaging the nervous system, kidneys, liver and immune system.
Joining Massachusetts in this settlement are: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Carol Iancu of Attorney General Coakley's Environmental Protection Division, with the assistance of Jennifer Davis and Robert W. Ritchie of MassDEP's Office of General Counsel and C. Mark Smith of MassDEP's Office of Research and Standards.