NEW YORK: Riverkeeper, an environmental non-profit organization,
has launched an aggressive communications campaign "to counteract the
General Electric Company's multimillion dollar PR campaign against
dredging the Hudson River."
In retaliation, Mark Behan of Behan Communications, the PR firm that has
been working with GE on the Hudson River issues, said GE is bringing out
its own radio and print campaign in New York and Washington, DC "to
ensure both sides of this have been heard and to correct the
misstatements in Riverkeeper's campaign."
Riverkeeper supports a proposal by the regional Environmental Protection
Agency that GE pay to dredge the Hudson River to rid it of
polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that are the result of GE's legal
dumping until 1977.
The proposal is under review. A decision about whether to mandate the
clean-up is expected in September.
"(GE has) spent millions of dollars trying to convince the public that
PCBs are not dangerous," said Alex Mattiessen, ED of Riverkeepers. He
said the organization, part of the Friends of a Clean Hudson coalition,
is trying to increase awareness of the health risks of PCBs, instead of
just the environmental risks.
The group is holding a press briefing in Washington, DC on August 1,
with the help of Environmental Media Services, a non-profit media
Behan said GE's own clean-up strategy is effective, focusing on
preventing PCBs from entering the water so the river can naturally
GE has been criticized by environmental groups for the amount of money
it has spent on the Hudson River PR campaign. During its 2001 annual
meeting, held in April, GE chairman Jack Welch admitted to spending
between $10 million and $15 million on PR, though
activists believe the sum to be even greater.
However, Behan countered, "Some of the media organizations have somehow
managed to overlook the amount the environmental groups have spent in
advertising and lobbying on the same issue."