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Robert W. Bowcock
Justin M. Scott-Coe
Integrated Resource Management, LLC
(909) 621-1266

Brooklyn Neighborhood Oil Spill Ignites Lawsuit


BROOKLYN (October 20, 2005) – Residents of the Greenpoint neighborhood of

Brooklyn, New York have filed a lawsuit against the world's three major oil companies,

accusing them of allowing millions of gallons of oil to seep under their homes and into

nearby water sources, potentially exposing the area to deadly methane gas.

ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco and BP p.l.c. have known about the spill since at least

1978, when a United States Coast Guard helicopter spotted a large oil slick in Newtown

Creek, which empties into the East River and eventually New York Harbor. A subsequent

study revealed the full extent of the oil spill—17 million gallons under 55 acres of land

containing active industrial sites and hundreds of homes. The Coast Guard later stated that

the spill may be as large as 30 million gallons. Either estimate dwarfs the famed Exxon

Valdez spill in Alaska, estimated at 10.8 million gallons. Little was done over the following

decade to clean up the spill.

Finally, in 1990, ExxonMobil (then just Mobil) agreed to install monitoring wells and

booms in the creek, and to start pumping some of the oil out of the ground. In 1995, Mobil

installed a handful of offsite wells to recover the oil that had migrated underground away

from the spill site. The residents’ lawsuit alleges that these actions were insufficient and

unreasonable given the size of the spill.

During a boat patrol in 2002, Riverkeeper, Inc., an advocacy group that monitors the

Hudson River and its tributaries, discovered oil seeping uncontrollably into Newtown Creek.

The organization’s subsequent investigation revived public scrutiny of the spill and its

handling by the oil companies and state agencies.

On May 18, 2004, Riverkeeper, along with six local residents, filed a federal lawsuit

against ExxonMobil on behalf of the environment and the citizens of the United States for

the pollution of Newtown Creek and the threats posed to human health. New York City

Councilmembers David Yassky (D-Brooklyn) and Eric Gioia (D-Queens) and Brooklyn

Borough President Marty Markowitz joined as coplaintiffs to the lawsuit. Riverkeeper has

also filed notice of its intent to sue both ChevronTexaco and BP p.l.c. Robert F. Kennedy,

Jr. is Riverkeeper’s Chief Prosecuting Attorney.

“The spill has destroyed Greenpoint’s environment and poses an unacceptable

danger to its residents,” said Riverkeeper Chief Investigator Basil Seggos. “This should

never have been allowed to happen. Enough is enough. The companies must be held

accountable and the people protected.”

In September, the House of Representatives passed the Katrina-inspired Coast

Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2005 authorizing a Coast Guard study of the

Newtown Creek oil spill. The bill included a provision authored by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-

Queens & Brooklyn) which requires the Coast Guard to conduct a study to determine the

public health risks of pollution from the oil spill.

"This study represents the first federal attention paid to the oil spill since the 1970s,"

Weiner said. "The public has the right to know what effect this oil spill is having on our local

environment. We've let the oil companies lag in their cleanup responsibilities for too long,

and it's time to hold them accountable."

The new lawsuit brought on behalf of Greenpoint residents contends that the oil spill

poses a direct danger to lives and homes. Over time, the oil has made a subterranean

migration onto the plaintiffs’ properties and under their homes. This trespassing oil spill

creates a nuisance and health hazard to those living in the area. Over time, oil and oil by-

products release gases that can build up underneath concrete foundations and pavement,

creating combustible pockets of gas beneath homes and driveways.

Yassky, Gioia, and Markowitz have all pledged their support for the Greenpoint

residents in their fight against ExxonMobil and the other oil companies.

“All the evidence suggests that these three oil companies are co-conspirators to this

environmental crime—one of the largest environmental crimes in world history,” Yassky

said. “It is these companies' responsibility to mitigate this unprecedented pollution and to

make sure it is done in a timely manner. At the same time, residents who are in danger or

have suffered property damage should be compensated."

"Polluters beware: The days when you can ruin our water and poison our backyards

with toxic waste are over," said Gioia. "Newtown Creek should be the Gold Coast of

Brooklyn and Queens, but we can't reclaim the waterfront until the oil companies take

responsibility for their spill and clean it up. This spill threatens our health, damages aquatic

life, and cripples economic development. We demand that ExxonMobil and the companies

who caused this devastation make Newtown Creek safe again."

”The plaintiffs in this lawsuit have been living on a toxic time bomb,” Markowitz said.

“No one wants to resort to litigation, but when a mega-corporation such as ExxonMobil is

responsible for conditions that degrade people’s homes and threaten their health and well-

being, our legal system must protect the little guy. Just as Newtown Creek is a precious

natural resource, Brooklynites’ homes, neighborhoods and children are precious to us.

Those who have been harmed must be justly compensated.”

ExxonMobil reported $7.86 billion dollars in corporate earnings during the First

Quarter of 2005.

The most recent lawsuit was filed on behalf of local residents and property owners

by Girardi & Keese of Los Angeles and local attorney Justin Bloom. Girardi & Keese is a law

firm specializing in individual and business injury litigation with an emphasis in

environmental damage and toxicity lawsuits. The firm has successfully recovered over $1

billion against the largest companies in the world, including Pacific Gas & Electric, Unocal,

ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, and Shell Oil. Bloom was formerly an associate with law firms

in Florida, Manhattan, and Brooklyn, a staff attorney with Riverkeeper, Inc., and program

director for Urban Green, Inc. He currently is a civil litigation, brownfields, and land use

consultant for numerous New York City and State environmental groups.

A neighborhood meeting will be held at St. Cecilia’s Parish Hall in Greenpoint on

Tuesday, October 25, to update the community on the status of the lawsuit and to field

questions. For further information, call (718) 383-8980 or visit