United States Announces $5.5 Million Settlement With GM To Resolve Natural Resource Damage Claims At Onondaga Lake Superfund Site Near Syracuse
Settlement Resolves Last Outstanding Federal Environmental Claim Against Old GM
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States and the State of New York have entered into a $5.5 million settlement agreement with the trust responsible for winding up the affairs of Chapter 11 debtor MOTORS LIQUIDATION COMPANY (“Old GM”), formerly known as General Motors Corporation. The settlement agreement, which remains subject to public notice and comment and bankruptcy court approval, concerns environmental liabilities for damages to natural resources under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), at the Onondaga Lake Superfund Site in Onondaga County, New York. It was lodged in Manhattan bankruptcy court on Monday, April 8, 2013.
The agreement is the 13th and final agreement in a series of settlements resolving the environmental obligations and liabilities of Old GM. Those settlements have collectively resulted in recoveries or allowed claim amounts totaling approximately $904,500,000.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “This settlement, if approved, will provide significant additional money to pay for damage to natural resources at the Onondaga Lake Site. More broadly, this last settlement with Old GM and its successors wraps up an intensive, multi-year effort to secure appropriate payment for remediation and natural resource damages at sites that became contaminated as a result of decades of Old GM operations.”
According to a proof of claim filed by the United States in the Old GM bankruptcy, for over four decades, Old GM molded, painted, finished and assembled metal and plastic automobile parts at its Inland Fisher Guide facility, which was adjacent to a tributary of Onondaga Lake. The United States further alleged that Old GM discharged hazardous substances including PCBs that resulted in significant contamination. EPA’s claims at the site were previously settled for roughly $39.2 million. Under the terms of the separate agreement filed earlier this week, the settling governments will receive additional allowed claims in the total amount of $5.5 million to settle claims for damages to natural resources at the Onondaga Lake site. The U.S. Department of the Interior serves as joint natural resource trustee along with the State of New York and the Onondaga Nation.
Under the settlement, $1,232,323 of the $5.5 million amount will be recovered in full by offsetting against other obligations that the United States otherwise owed to Old GM, and the remaining $4,267,677 will be allowed as a general unsecured claim, to be paid in stocks and warrants of GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION ("New GM") in an amount determined through the bankruptcy. The United States anticipates that, as a function of bankruptcy law, the New GM stocks and warrants received by the Department of the Interior and the other NRD claimants will have a cash value of less than the face amount of the allowed general unsecured claims.
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In June 2009, Old GM – then the second-largest automotive manufacturer in the world – and three wholly-owned subsidiaries filed Chapter 11 petitions in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The same day it filed for bankruptcy, Old GM also filed a motion to sell substantially all of its assets to a newly formed corporation, now known as General Motors Company (“New GM”), which was approved by the Bankruptcy Court in July 2009. Old GM thereafter filed a plan of liquidation.
The United States filed proofs of claim against Old GM and its affiliated debtors for environmental liabilities at over 100 sites, and sought amounts due to fund remediation of environmental contamination at most of them. It also asserted natural resource damage claims at six of these sites. The United States previously settled its natural resource damage claims at five of these six sites for approximately $11.5 million; this latest settlement resolves the United States’ sixth and final natural resource damage claim against Old GM. All other United States environmental claims against Old GM have also been resolved.
In total, the United States has entered 12 previous settlements of Old GM=s environmental obligations. Among these settlements, in October 2010, the United States, certain States, and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe entered into a $773 million settlement agreement with Old GM to resolve its liabilities at 89 sites owned by the debtors. In December 2010, the United States and certain States entered into six additional settlements totaling $25 million with Old GM to resolve its environmental liabilities at six other sites. In addition, in an agreement approved by the Bankruptcy Court on March 29, 2011, the United States on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) obtained an allowed general unsecured claim and rights to certain additional funds under environmental law provisions, in a combined total exceeding $50 million, and later settlements granted EPA allowed unsecured claims of more than $62.9 million against Old GM for remediation of contamination at various sites including the Onondaga Lake Superfund Site.
Before being considered by the Bankruptcy Court for approval under environmental laws, the settlement agreement will be lodged with the Bankruptcy Court for a period of 30 days to provide public notice and to afford members of the public the opportunity to comment. It is subject to the approval of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert E. Gerber.
Mr. Bharara praised the U.S. Department of the Interior, the joint trustees at the Onondaga Lake Superfund Site, and the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice for their extraordinary work on this case.
This case has been handled by the Environmental Protection Unit and Tax and Bankruptcy Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys David S. Jones and Natalie N. Kuehler, along with Alan S. Tenenbaum and Patrick Casey of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, are in charge of this case.