ExxonMobil officials blew off a City Council hearing this week on the company’s clean up of Greenpoint’s 30-million-gallon underground oil spill — and by doing so, missed an opportunity to defend itself from accusations that it isn’t doing all it could to expedite the process.
The company also missed a chance to respond to Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D–Williamsburg) that it is shirking its environmental responsibilities for cleaning up a spill that has caused illness in Greenpoint for generations.
Exxon was invited to the Monday hearing, a Council spokesman said.
At the hearing, Suzanne Mattei, regional director for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, also criticized the energy company for failing to live up to its responsibilities.
Exxon has been sucking up and cleaning contaminated ground water from beneath 55 acres of Greenpoint since 1990. The company says it has already recovered 9.5 million gallons of oily product. But Mattei told the committee Exxon needs to expand its operation to include “soil contamination.” She added that her agency filed a lawsuit in conjunction with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo this summer to compel the company to stop dragging its feet.
Velazquez was sharply critical of ExxonMobil for ditching the hearing: “Their absence today speaks volumes about their level of commitment to the well-being of the community they chose to work in.”
The committee also heard from Laura Hofmann, a Dupont Street resident who claims that her family has suffered severe diseases from being exposed to the spill.
“Our family medical history reads like an Area 51 report,” Hofmann said. “My mother is slowly dying from a rare brain lymphoma. My father died in 2005 of another rare and devastating disease of the brain.
“There’s no doubt about it. Oil is not good for your health. I’m asking all of you to do whatever is in your power to help force a swift, thorough cleanup.”
ExxonMobil announced last month that it will shortly apply for a state permit to dig 10 more wells — which would double the energy company’s oil-removal capacity and dramatically speed the cleanup.
©2007 Community News Group
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