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Trust fund to pay for cleaning old GM sites

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Trust fund to pay for cleaning old GM sites



WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration and the part of General Motors left behind in last year's bankruptcy will establish an $800-million trust fund to pay for environmental cleanups at closed GM sites. Some $161 million will be spent in Michigan, the most of any state.

An Obama administration official speaking on condition of anonymity said the fund would be used to clean up sites in 14 states and return them to productive use. Of the 89 sites covered by the plan, 59 are in Michigan, although closed GM plants such as Willow Run in Ypsilanti have multiple sites.

In addition to Willow Run, the trust would cover cleanup and renewal work in Pontiac, Flint, Saginaw, Lansing, Detroit and other Michigan cities.

Officials said the fund would include $536 million for environmental cleanup with another roughly $300 million available for other costs, such as property taxes or demolition.

The plan has to be approved by state officials and the bankruptcy court overseeing Motors Liquidation, the "old" GM left behind following the sale of "new" GM to the U.S. government and the health-care trust fund for UAW retirees. The official said the administration hopes to have the trust running by the end of the year.

"These funds should be more than sufficient to cover the ... problem sites," the official said.

U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., said the trust would lift the burden of environmental cleanup off cities and states, while speeding their conversion to other uses.

"Historically, it takes a long time to accomplish projects such as these, but the administration's well-timed decision will allow us to cut through red tape and get back to putting people back to work in areas of the country hardest hit by the economic downturn," Dingell said in a statement.

The trust would use no new government money. Motors Liquidation was given $1.2 billion for wind-down costs by the U.S. Treasury as part of GM's bankruptcy in 2009, along with 10% of new GM's equity and warrants for an additional 15% should claims against it total more than $35 billion.

Earlier this month, Motors Liquidation said its estimate of liability for environmental cleanup costs totaled $396 million, although it also warned that figure could rise as it reviews claims. Several states had expressed concern as recently as February that Motors Liquidation had insufficient assets to cover the costs of environmental cleanup at old GM sites.

The sites covered by the proposed trust include the former GM plant in Massena, N.Y., which officials there estimated last year could cost $225 million to clean up.



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