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Whose Mess Is It Anyway?

April 10, 2010

To George Santayana’s quote “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, we need to add “those that cannot remember the past will have a skewed perspective”.  This applies especially now as the NUMMI plant in Fremont, Ca comes to an end.

In an article by Chris O’Brien in the Mercury News (3/27/10) Toyota is told they are, or should be, responsible for the clean up left after years of manufacturing vehicles at NUMMI.  Pay attention Chris, here is a history lesson for you.

GM began making cars in 1962 at this site.  They operated until 1982  when they shut down.  Then in 1984 as a joint venture with Toyota they started again until 2009 when GM unceremoniously pulled out.  Let’s do the math.  That would be 45 years GM made cars to Toyota’s 26 years.  Who put most of the toxins in the ground?

Not only has Gm been using the facility nearly twice as long but from 1962 until 1970 there was no such thing as the Environmental Protection Agency.  It came along in December of 1970 and better yet the Toxic Substance Act was not passed until 1976.  So from 1962 until 1976 GM could pretty much dump anything they wanted into the ground.  When Toyota came along in 1984 and the plant restarted both companies had government regulations to adhere to regarding toxic substances.  Who dumped the worst toxins in the ground?

As if blaming Toyota was not enough Chris states that the reason GM should be off the toxic hook is because they are financially strapped and Toyota can afford to pay for the clean up.  Ironically, in the same paper as O’Brien’s article was a story of how GM is expanding their Canadian plants to increase production of SUVs as they cannot keep up with the demand.  So GM has the money to make more gas guzzlers but not any money to be environmentally responsible.  Why shouldn’t GM help pay for the toxic clean up at NUMMI?

As Hardy used to say to Laurel, or as Toyota should say to GM, “Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into”!

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