The state has reached a $25-million settlement with ExxonMobil, ordering the oil corporation to finish cleaning up the state’s largest oil spill under Greenpoint.
In one of his last acts as attorney general, Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo filed the settlement in federal court on Wednesday morning, a deal that requires ExxonMobil to pay millions of dollars for projects that will improve the environment in and around a neighborhood that has been plagued by the spill for a half-century.
“For far too long, residents of Greenpoint have been forced to live with an environmental nightmare lurking just beneath their homes, their businesses and their community,” Cuomo said at a press conference along the banks of the fetid creek. “This settlement repairs the damage to the community and will help make it a cleaner and healthier place to live.”
The move is a veritable one-two environmental punch for Greenpoint following the Environmental Protection Agency’s designation of the waterway as a Superfund site in September.
The federal clean-up effort will focus primarily on the toxic sediment underneath the creek while ExxonMobil’s efforts have already sucked tens of millions of gallons oil-filled groundwater from underneath hundreds of acres in northern Greenpoint.
So far, the company has removed 10 million gallons from the soil.
But the settlement is seen by environmental advocates as critical towards compelling ExxonMobil to adhere to a strict set of guidelines to complete the remediation job and accept responsibility for its company’s leaks a half-century ago.
“The settlement has specifics and it’s aggressive, and firm deadlines will be met,” said Riverkeeper’s Paul Gallay. “Attorney General Cuomo has delivered the environmental order, and now Gov. Cuomo can turn it into the clean up this community needs and deserves.”
The settlement ends more than five years of a protracted legal battle aimed at compelling the companies responsible for the pollution to clean up the site.
The spill was first discovered by the Coast Guard in 1978, which triggered several years of environmental testing by the state and oil refineries located on the banks of Newtown Creek to determine the cause and extent of the contamination.
The Coast Guard estimated that 17 million gallons of oil seeped from underground refineries into Greenpoint’s soil and groundwater, but little work was done to clean the site until the environmental organization Riverkeeper sued ExxonMobil, BP/Amoco and Chevron in 2004, a suit later joined by local residents; and public officials, including Borough President Markowitz.
©2010 Community News Group
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