July 17, 2007 / 7:17 PM / 10 years ago

New York State sues Exxon over Brooklyn spill

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York State sued Exxon Mobil Corp on Tuesday to force the cleanup of a decades-old, 17 million gallon oil spill in New York City.

The lawsuit concerns a leak that was discovered in 1978 in Newtown Creek, the waterway that separates the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn. It has formed an underground contamination over 55-acres of the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, the lawsuit says.

Besides the cleanup, the lawsuit asks Exxon to restore the creek and is seeking substantial financial penalties and damages for the injuries to financial resources.

“This company cannot ignore the harm its oil spill has caused to the environment and residents of Greenpoint, Brooklyn,” New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

“This suit sends the message that even the largest corporations in the world cannot escape the consequences of their misdeeds,” he said.

Cuomo filed a notice of intent to sue the company last February.

“The allegations made by the New York State attorney general are not supported by the facts and are unfounded,” Exxon Mobil spokesman Barry Wood said.

“Exxon Mobil takes its environmental responsibility very seriously, and our policy is to comply with all applicable environmental laws and regulations.”

He said the company would vigorously defend against the lawsuit.

Greenpoint, a waterfront neighborhood that is a longtime home to Polish immigrants and more recently to hipsters, was an industrial hub for shipbuilding, iron making and refining before World War II.

Exxon’s property on the creek was the site of one of the earliest refineries of original U.S. oil giant Standard Oil, but most of the refinery structures were decommissioned and demolished after 1969.

Mobil Corp, acquired by Exxon in 1999, used some of the property for bulk storage operations until 1993.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, located in Brooklyn. U.S. District Judge Carol Amon has been assigned to hear the case.

In February, Cuomo also filed notices of intent to sue BP Plc, Chevron Corp, utility KeySpan Corp and mining company Phelps Dodge, which has since been acquired by Freeport-McMoRan, over contamination in the creek. No suits have been filed against those companies yet, but a source close to the lawsuit said conversations were ongoing with the other companies.

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