SHEFFIELD — A week after a $55 million settlement deal was announced to clean up the Housatonic River, the Sheffield Select Board gave its rationale for signing off on the deal between General Electric, the Environmental Protection Agency and five south county towns.
Sheffield Select Board Chairperson Rene Wood represented the town on the Rest of River Municipal Committee, which was part of the mediation process with General Electric (GE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That committee included representatives from Lee, Lenox, Sheffield, Great Barrington and Stockbridge.
During the Sheffield Select Board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 18, Wood told the public that it was a no-lose situation to enter into the mediation process when the towns had never had substantial input previously.
“Basically we had never had a say in this,” Wood said following the meeting. “We had worked with the EPA to influence the 2016 permit, but we’d never been at the table with GE or anybody who was making the decisions. When we were given the possibility of having a real seat at the table, there was no reason not to say yes. We knew we could always withdraw if we thought they were pulling our leg or GE wasn’t serious.”
Wood said the towns didn’t get everything they wanted in the course of the negotiations, but added that she was amazed by the concessions they did receive from GE.
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