On July 17, 2007, New York Attorney General ("NYAG") Andrew M. Cuomo filed suit against the ExxonMobil Corporation and ExxonMobil Refining and Supply Company “to force the cleanup of a 17-million-gallon oil spill in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and to restore Newtown Creek, the contaminated waterway separating Queens from Brooklyn.” A copy of the complaint can be found here and a copy of the civil cover sheet can be found here.

Newtown Creek is a 3.5-mile-long waterway that separates Queens and Brooklyn and flows into the East River. The NYAG alleges that spills from ExxonMobil’s refinery and storage operations seeped into the ground creating a plume of oil floating on top of the groundwater. “Some of the oil dissolved into the groundwater, contaminating both the groundwater and the surrounding soil. It is estimated that at one time at least 17 million gallons of oil were present underneath more than 100 acres of Greenpoint, Brooklyn and the remainder is now present underneath approximately 55 acres.” The NYAG’s website compares the Greenpoint spill with the Exxon Valdez, which spilled 11 million gallons in Alaska in 1989. In 1978, oil from ExxonMobil’s Greenpoint spill was discovered seeping into Newtown Creek. A press release issued by the NYAG states that, “In the almost thirty years since that discovery, Exxon has barely recovered half of the oil, has made no progress in identifying the extent of the dissolved groundwater plume or treating the contaminated soil, and has not addressed the contamination in Newtown Creek.”

The suit seeks the termination of oil spills into the creek; scientific testing and investigations to determine the full scope of the environmental contamination in the area; increased recovery of underground oil; cleanup of contaminated groundwater and soil; restoration of Newtown Creek; damages for the injuries to the affected natural resources; and substantial financial penalties.

New York State is suing ExxonMobil under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the federal Clean Water Act, the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as Superfund), the federal Oil Pollution Act, the State’s Navigation Law, and the State’s Environmental Conservation Law.

The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Federal District Judge Carol B. Amon has been assigned to hear the case. Judge Amon is also hearing a related case filed in 2004 by a non-profit environmental group and residents of Greenpoint. A copy of the related case complaint can be found here and the docket can be found here.