WASHINGTON, DC, October 21, 2010 (ENS) – After months of negotiation, the United States, along with 14 states and a tribal government, have reached an agreement with the bankruptcy estate of General Motors to establish a $773 million trust to clean up and repurpose 89 properties left behind in the GM bankruptcy.

Two-thirds of these sites are known to be contaminated with hazardous waste.

The trust is the result of an agreement between the United States, the Motors Liquidation Company (formerly General Motors Corporation), 14 states and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.

It will be the largest and most inclusive environmental trust in U.S. history. This kind of environmental trust is “unprecedented in size, speed of settlement, and level of local involvement,” the White House said in a statement Wednesday.

It will give local communities the opportunity to participate in designing the strategy for repurposing these properties in accordance with their specific development objectives, using these funds to both properly clean them up and quickly return them to productive use creating jobs and restoring communities.

The agreement was filed with the bankruptcy court that is overseeing the final dissolution of Old GM. It is expected that final approval will take place early in 2011.

Administrator Lisa Jackson said of the trust, “We’re happy to have a path forward that addresses the needs of former auto communities. This trust – the largest environmental trust in our history – provides support for aggressive environmental cleanups at these sites, which will create jobs today and benefit the environment and human health over the long-term.”

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, who co-chairs the White House Council on Auto Communities and Workers, highlighted the trust’s impact on local community development.

“These funds will create much-needed jobs in the communities directly affected by the General Motors restructuring,” Solis said. “This trust will create jobs not only through the direct hiring of clean up personnel, but also by generating private investment through locally-driven solutions that repurpose the sites toward new productive uses.”

Flint, Michigan’s 235-acre complex known as Buick City was in operation from 1904 until 1999. The facility was recently demolished. The site will be remediated with $33 million from the Old GM trust. (Photo credit unknown)

“This settlement holds accountable those responsible for contaminating certain properties and ensures they help transform these communities by supporting the necessary cleanup,” said Gary Grindler, acting deputy attorney general of the United States. “The agreement marks a new beginning by responsibly addressing hazardous waste contamination in impacted communities, and at the same time creates jobs to help clean up and return these sites to beneficial uses.”

Out of the $773 million trust, $431 million will be used directly in the states for cleaning up the Old GM properties.

Michigan, which has the largest number of properties in the trust, will receive the largest single amount from the trust, $158.7 million.

“Today marks another important step in Michigan’s economic recovery,” said Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. “Cleaning up these former GM sites will allow new companies a greater opportunity to invest in Michigan and create jobs. I commend the Obama administration and Michigan’s economic development team for their work to bring this process to a close, and urge that the court proceedings move as quickly as possible.”

New York will receive the second largest amount from the trust, $153.9 million.

The property receiving the most money, $120.8 million, is the GM Central Foundry Superfund site in Massena, New York near the St. Lawrence River that marks the U.S.-Canada border, where the automaker discarded polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs, while operating an aluminum diecasting plant for decades.

EPA said PCBs have been found in the plant’s equipment, pipes and floors and in tunnels and soil beneath the buildings and warns they could be released in the event of improper demolition.

The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, whose property was polluted by the plant, has approved the agreement.

If the court approves this settlement, smaller amounts from the trust will be used to clean up sites in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. A site in Louisiana, which is not contaminated, will receive money to re-purpose the property.

In addition, $68 million will be placed in a pooled account for environmental cleanup that may arise at any of the 89 properties, transferred to the trust on account of unforeseen conditions.

Approximately $12 million will be credited to Old GM for approved cleanup activities.

Finally, $262 million in cash and other assets will be used to cover various administrative activities and activities that help return these properties to beneficial use such as demolition.

Elliott Laws, who previously served in the Environmental Protection Agency as assistant administrator for solid waste and emergency response, will be named the Managing Member of EPLET LLC which will be the Trustee and oversee administration of the funds in the trust.

Federal and the state environmental agencies will work closely with the Trustee on budgeting for implementing the cleanups.

The Trustee will work closely with the local communities when selling or repurposing the properties. In addition to generating sale proceeds, the Trustee will consider both the potential for the reuse to create jobs in the applicable state and the views of the applicable state and affected communities.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.