Settlement Resolves Liability for Natural Resource Damages Claims Related to GM’s Former Assembly Plant in Framingham
Claims Set at $875,000 by U.S. Bankruptcy Court
BOSTON – A settlement approved Tuesday by a federal court establishes $875,000 as the allowed claim of the Commonwealth to resolve allegations that the former General Motors plant in Framingham caused damage to natural resources, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
The U.S. bankruptcy court for the Southern District of New York approved the settlement between the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and a successor to GM established to handle certain unresolved claims, the Motors Liquidation General Unsecured Creditors Trust (GUC Trust). The settlement establishes $875,000 as the allowed claim by the MassDEP and resolves all outstanding natural resource damages (NRD) claims against the former GM in connection with its former Framingham plant.
“We are committed to holding accountable businesses that injure or destroy our natural resources by discharging hazardous materials into our soil and wetlands,” said AG Coakley. “We are pleased that this settlement will provide some compensation for the environmental harm caused by this former GM plant.”
GM owned and operated the plant from 1946 to 1994. During most of that time, the property included a paint shop, above ground storage tanks, an industrial wastewater treatment plant, railways, wetlands areas and a storm water settling lagoon. In 1994, GM sold portions of the property to Auto Dealers Exchange Services of America (ADESA). However, GM retained ownership of 30 acres of wetlands that included Beaverdam Brook, a lagoon, and the four acre former landfill.
During GM’s operations at the property, discharges of hazardous materials, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and metals contaminated nearby natural resources. In particular, discharges from various storm water outfalls and the settling lagoon contaminated the Beaverdam Brook streambed, banks and surrounding wetlands. The contamination impaired birds, animals and benthic macroinvertebrates including worms and snails. Based on scientific assessments and toxicity studies, the adverse ecological effects have been attributed to elevated metals and PAH concentrations.
The AG’s Environmental Protection Division negotiated the agreement on behalf of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Massachusetts Trustee for Natural Resources, with the successor to the automaker’s NRD liability the GUC Trust.
“The settlement underscores that there is a value on our natural resources, and that those who are found responsible for harming these resource need to pay for that harm,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell.
Under the settlement, distributions will be paid quarterly with the actual amount tied to the value of new GM stocks and other instruments. Eighty-percent will be paid in the first quarterly distribution in July. Funds will be placed in the Massachusetts Natural Resources Damages Trust and used for activities such as funding natural resource restoration, assessment of natural resource damages, and enforcement of natural resource laws.
This agreement resolves the third and final component of GM’s environmental liability to the Commonwealth related to the Framingham site. Previously, the Commonwealth was allocated more than $3 million to cover costs associated with performing cleanup and ongoing monitoring work at the plant’s Framingham landfill, the Beaverdam Brook and lagoon sites over the next hundred years. That agreement was part of a settlement involving fourteen states, the federal government and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.
AG Coakley’s office also previously resolved the Commonwealth’s claims against former GM under the Massachusetts Mercury Management Act that required the automaker 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.”
A national mercury switch recovery program is run by End-of-Life-Vehicle Solutions, Inc. (ELVS). The AG’s Office led negotiations on behalf of 12 states that resulted in a settlement under which ELVS received $2.8 million in distributions to satisfy the states’ claims under the terms of the former GM’s plan of liquidation. In related discussions, the new GM committed to and made a voluntary contribution of $4.5 million to ELVS.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Carol Iancu of Attorney General Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division, with the assistance of Jennifer Davis of MassDEP’s Office of General Counsel and Karen Pelto, MassDEP’s Natural Resources Damages Coordinator in the Bureau of Waste Site Cleanup.