GE, Riverkeeper brace for next round of battle over Hudson Riverclean-up

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

information outfit.



Behan said GE's own clean-up strategy is effective, focusing on

preventing PCBs from entering the water so the river can naturally

recover.



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."



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