Among those clamoring for attention and payouts from Motors Liquidation Co., the company that assumed General Motors’ unwanted assets after its Chapter 11 filing, are the environmental and economic redevelopment departments of state governments. According to reports, when GM exited bankruptcy, its polluted factory and land sites were consumed by the Motor Liquidation, allowing the automaker to avoid the responsibility of cleaning up its mess, and state leaders fear there won’t be any money to clean the locations.
After all, this was the original point of the exercise. GM was an unsustainable, debt-ridden mess; the government takeover and bankruptcy was designed to let it cut out the most diseased portions of its operations and reorganize as something more… ‘untainted,’ as it were. Or possibly even just ‘less tainted.’ That this ends up with individual state governments left holding the bag on the cleanup* is either an unintended consequence, or just a previously-obscure detail, of the bailout/bankruptcy; it all depends on whether you see the administration as a collection of dangerous idiots, or as a collection of dangerous idiots. A federal bailout of the state governments’ obligations to clean up a private industry’s ecological mess would certainly be a useful weapon in the federal government’s ongoing quest for ever-more power and oversight.
On the other hand, the White House can’t even spell “Barack Obama” reliably on official state documents, so it’s entirely possible that they stuck already-struggling states with the cleanup bill by the sheerest accident.
*Yes, that’s how it works out. Motors Liquidation doesn’t have the money to settle the existing cleaning bill, even if it wasn’t planning to spend most of it on lawyers. General Motors is no longer responsible for those assets. Technically speaking, neither is the federal government. And there’s little incentive for private initiatives to rehabilitate the sites, particularly in this economy. But the relevant environmental regulations and requirements are all still firmly in place. Elegant, yes?
Crossposted to Moe Lane.