Cuomo sues to speed Newtown Creek clean up

In February, New York State’s Attorney General Andrew Cuomo warned ExxonMobil to speed up the clean up of a decades-old oil spill in Newtown Creek. Now, Cuomo has filed suit against the company for failure to attend to the spill, one of the largest in history.
Cuomo charged that the oil giant has not complied with six federal and state laws, including the federal Clean Water Act, and creating a public nuisance.
Although ExxonMobil promised in 1990 to clean the Creek spill, which dumped 17 million gallons of oil into the waterway in 1978, critics have charged that the company’s efforts have been slow moving. In total, the oil giant has removed an estimated 8.7 millions gallons of oil from the Creek, but estimates that it needs another 25 years to finish the job.
“ExxonMobil - the largest, most profitable oil corporation in the world - has continually refused to accept responsibility for what is one of the worst environmental disasters in the nation’s history,” Cuomo said on Tuesday, July 17. “With today’s action, we will hold ExxonMobil accountable for the damage it has created. This suit sends the message that even the largest corporations in the world cannot escape the consequences of their misdeeds.”
In filing a lawsuit, Cuomo aims to force the company to have the scope of the spill tested, to increase their recovery of underground oil, to cleanup contaminated groundwater and soil, to restore the Creek, and pay damages to local residents as well as penalties to the government.
Since filing his initial Intent to Sue earlier this year, Cuomo said that ExxonMobil has nearly halted its cleanup and as a result, the spill has spread further into the Creek. Before February, their remediation efforts netted about 1,110 gallons of oil per day, and after Cuomo charged that they were releasing contaminated water back into the 3.5-mile waterway, the oil company shut down their treatment systems, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). With their passive recovery system in place, only 87 gallons of oil - or eight percent of the normal rate - was recovered per day.
“DEC viewed the shutoff as a deliberate violation of state laws and a substantial failure by ExxonMobil to accept responsibility for prior contamination,” a June release from the state agency read.
On June 28, the DEC gave ExxonMobil temporary authorization to resume the cleanup - but with much stricter guidelines over the water that was returned into the Creek and much more supervision.
“This landmark action is a step forward not only to demand accountability from polluters but also to protect the health and well-being of Brooklyn residents,” DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said in response to Cuomo’s suit.
In his lawsuit, Cuomo is also asserting claims of public nuisance and filed for restitution.
“ExxonMobil was warned that it faced serious legal action by the
State Attorney General, but still failed - as it has for decades - to take appropriate steps to clean up the oil spill and restore the terrible damage that has been done to Newtown Creek and properties along its banks,” said State Senator George Onorato, who represents the Queens neighborhoods bordering the Creek. “Now, hopefully, this company will be forced to pay the price for its inexcusable negligence.”

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