Cuomo will take on biggest of big business

John O'Brien Jul. 17, 2007, 3:21pm


NEW YORK - New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's latest target is ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil corporation.

On Tuesday, Cuomo filed suit against the company, alleging it has refused to accept responsibility for a 17-million-gallon oil spill in Brooklyn. In February, Cuomo sent a notice of intent to sue to Exxon, which reported a record $39.5 billion net income in 2006.

"ExxonMobil... has continually refused to accept responsibility for what is one of the worst environmental disasters in the nation's history," Cuomo said. "This company cannot ignore the harm its oil spill has caused to the environment and residents of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. 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."

Cuomo says Exxon is to blame for the contamination of Newtown Creek, a 3.5 mile-long waterway separating Queens from Brooklyn. He says spills from Exxon's refinery and storage operations in 1978 seeped into the ground and trickled into the water, creating a plume of oil floating on top.

Cuomo said in the nearly 30 years since the spill, Exxon has recovered only half of the oil and made no progress in determining the extent of the dissolved groundwater plume or treating the contaminated soil.

He is asking the Court for scientific testing and investigations to determine the full scope of the spill, increased recovery of underground oil, cleanup of contaminated groundwater and soil, restoration of Newtown Creek, damages for the injuries to natural resources and substantial financial penalties.

According to a report on, one personal injury firm says the spill has caused $58 billion in damages.

Cuomo's suit was filed in federal court for the Eastern District of New York. Cuomo is also charging the company with creating a public nuisance, which would help if Exxon invokes a statute of limitations defense.
In 1990, Exxon largely took responsibility for the spill, which left an underground petroleum pond and has constructed a pumping system that has extracted 9.3 million gallons of oil, according to a report by The Associated Press. The company said it is difficult to extract the oil any faster, though Cuomo feels they are delaying the process.

"We take our environmental responsibility very seriously, and we are very committed to cleaning up the site," company spokeswoman Prem Nair said.

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