NEW YORK - New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has decided to sue Exxon Mobil and four other companies over a 17-million-gallon oil spill.
Cuomo said Exxon's "toxic footprints" are all over the Greenport area, that Newton Creek has been contaminated and that the company's cleanup is not going fast enough.
Though Cuomo feels Exxon is largely responsible, he sent notices of intent to sue to BP, Chevron, Keyspan and Phelps Dodge under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. He says the companies created an "imminent and substantial endangerment to the health and the environment" in Newton Creek and portions of the adjacent shoreline.
Exxon largely took responsibility for the spill, which left an underground petroleum pond, in 1990, 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.
Cuomo charges Chevron and BP with releasing oil into the ground from their storage facilities along the creek. Phelps Dodge, he says, operates a copper smelting plant where heavy metals have been found.
And Keyspan is being sued because its predecessors operated several manufactured gas plant facilities that allegedly contaminated creek sediments.
Exxon, which reported a record $39.5 billion net income in 2006, also is currently fighting the State of Alabama. It argued before the Alabama Supreme Court Tuesday that a $3.6 billion judgment awarded against it should be wiped away because it is not guilty of defrauding the state.
Exxon attempted to explain to the justices that the controversy is merely a misunderstanding between the company and the state over their contract.
Alabama says Exxon intentionally did not pay 11 months worth of royalty payments to the state from offshore wells because it knew the state was inexperienced in the industry.