Monday, June 26, 2006

Exxon's Oil Spill in Brooklyn

Press conference in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, June 24, 2006. Video of Press Conference Hi Res, Dial-Up, Third Planet Video, June 24, 2006, 10 min.

I have called this press conference to commend the DEC's announcement, reported on Thursday, that it has requested the attorney general to take legal action against Exxon for its failure to clean up millions of gallons of petroleum pollution in the Brooklyn aquifer and surrounding soils. I have been working as a Sierra Club activist since 1996 trying to get the spill cleaned up. I look forward to prosecuting the case when I am elected.

This oil spill is a huge and long-standing crime. It is the largest urban oil spill in the United States, two to four times as large as the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. It was obvious to the company in 1954 when a large gas explosion occurred in the Socony-Vacuum petroleum storage facilities that millions of gallons of its petroleum products had sunk onto the Brooklyn acquifer, but the company did not clean up or disclose the spill. Even after the spill was discovered leaking into Newtown Creek in 1978 by the US Coast Guard, the company denied liability for years.

It is important to make Exxon live up to its obligations under New York and federal law to clean up the spill and pay for damages. We need to show that large corporate criminals are not above the law.

Had the spill been cleaned up as soon as it occurred, much of the damage caused by the petroleum over the last 52 years would have been avoided. Two generations of people in Brooklyn would not have lived with the damaging effects of petroleum vapors seeping through their soil, into their houses and into their bodies.

The aquifer might have been restored and available to the city as a source of water. Until 1947 the Brooklyn municipal water system depended on ground water. Pumping had stopped at the time of the spill because the depression in the water table caused by extensive pumping was causing sea water to flow into the aquifer, but as the aquifer replenished itself, pumping could have resumed if the petroleum contamination from the spill had been cleaned up.

As long as the oil remains on the aquifer next to Newtown Creek, there is the possibility of tremendous damage from large flows of oil into the creek and New York harbor. At any time natural or human forces may cause the oil to breach the barriers that have so far confined it underground.

I took my first tour of this area ten years ago with Concerned Citizens of Greenpoint and the Greenpoint Watchperson's office. Our Sierra Club Eco Restoration Committee studied the spill extensively. One of the things we looked at was the Geraghty and Miller report on the spill prepared for the US Coast Guard in 1979.

I would like to show you one of the pages of that report. This map shows the contours on the water table in Brooklyn in 1936 and it shows something very interesting. See this cone of depression in the water table of 35 feet below sea level in the Fort Greene area?

Contours on water table in Brooklyn in 1936. Figure 4 of the Geraghty and Miller Report, Investigation of Underground Accumulation of Hydrocarbons along Newtown Creek, Brooklyn, New York, prepared for the U.S. Coast Guard, July 1979. Altitudes are in feet below mean sea level.

Compare this now to this graphic from the DEC's January 2005 community presentation on the spill showing how the hydrocarbon product floating on top of the water table flows into a cone of depression created by ground water pumping.

The Cone of Depression. Illustration by the DEC showing how the petroleum recovery system is using the cone of depression created by pumping the groundwater to recover the petroleum product. From website/der/projects/reg2/greenpoint/s224087e.pdf

You can see there is a strong possibility that the petroleum products from the Socony-Vacuum spill traveled south into the cone of depression caused by the pumping, and that as ground water levels rose in the years following the spill because the groundwater pumping was never restarted, petroleum contamination may have spread broadly over large areas of the Brooklyn aquifer. There is good reason to think that the damage is more extensive than is generally assumed.

For more information about the spill, visit:
and projects/reg2/greenpoint/. See State Plans to Sue Exxon Over Underground Oil Spill in Brooklyn, NY Times, June 22, 2006.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

That Was Quick!!

Just one day after Rachel issued a media advisory on June 21, 2006, stating that she would hold a press conference in Greenpoint, Brooklyn on June 24, 2006, to announce her plan, if elected, to sue ExxonMobil for natural resource damage to the aquifer under Brooklyn from a hydrocarbon spill occurring in 1950 and continuing to the present day, the New York Times reports on June 22, 2006, that State Plans to Sue Exxon Over Underground Oil Spill in Brooklyn. According to the article, "The Department of Environmental Conservation said yesterday that it has joined the fray, and asked New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to initiate legal action against Exxon 'to ensure that the company fulfills its obligation to clean up petroleum contamination' in Greenpoint."

Friday, June 16, 2006

CNN Survey 84% Against Electronic Voting

I just voted and the votes are now:

Do you believe the United States should abandon electronic voting?
Yes, 84%, 9876 votes
No,16%,1913 votes
Total: 11789 votes

Original Message:
Subject: Vote Now CNN Survey on EVoting
Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2006 23:32:34 -0400
From: "Bo Lipari"
Organization: New Yorkers for Verified Voting

Go vote online now. Top item on the left.

Do you believe the United States should abandon electronic voting?
Yes, 84%, 952 votes
No, 16%,183 votes
Total: 1135 votes

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Comments on proposed Cohocton Local Wind Law

To the Cohocton Town Board and Cohocton Town Planning Board, Cohocton, New York
Comments filed June 14, 2006

As a resident of Steuben County and a candidate for Attorney General, I have studied the proposals for industrial wind farms being made to towns in our county. Like almost everyone, I am strongly in favor of clean energy. We need to reduce our energy consumption and generate the energy we do use from non-toxic sources, such as wind. But we cannot be blinded by our desire for clean energy into failing to properly evaluate the wind farm schemes being proposed for our county.

First of all we need to know how much effective electric capacity the proposed wind farms will actually produce. The haste with which large industrial wind farms are being pushed for construction in all the top wind resource areas of our county precludes adequate consideration of this issue. We need to slow down and begin with construction of just a few turbines so residents and officials can find out how much electric energy can actually be generated in this area and get actual experience in the amount of noise, flicker, ice throw, harm to wildlife and harm to property values that will be generated by turbines of the huge size being proposed.

The large federal and state subsidies and tax benefits being granted to wind energy production do not guarantee that it is economic to produce electricity from wind in this area, and if it is not, the projects will fail. Nor will these subsidies and tax benefits prevent property values in our area from declining due to the presence of industrial wind farms.

For these reasons, I recommend that the town of Cohocton take time to adequately study the effects of having industrial wind farms in Cohocton, and that the proposed Cohocton wind law be amended to:

1. Limit the number of industrial size turbines that can be constructed in 2006 and 2007 to one
2. Require the public recording of wind energy leases in order to be enforceable
3. Establish adequate setbacks to take into account the rights of adjacent landowners to the wind energy flowing across their properties.
4. Require the owners of large wind turbines to make quarterly public disclosures of the electric energy produced by each turbine
5. Require the owners of large wind turbines to post bonds for road repair
6. Set up procedures by which property value decline can be measured and require the owners of large wind turbines to post bonds for harm to property values.

Adding these requirements will give the residents of Cohocton the time and information necessary to more adequately evaluate the proposed project.

The proposed Cohocton local law is posted on the Cohocton Wind Watch website at

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Local Groups Oppose Corporate Water Mining

Articles about this event appeared in the Ithaca Times, the Corning Leader, the Elmira Star-Gazette, the Watkins Express and the Dundee Observer and on Laura Hand's show on WSTM in Syracuse. Participants decided to form a regional water protection network.

Community Water Rights Protection Workshop
Date: June 9-10, 2006
Location: Rural-Urban Center, 208 Broadway, Montour Falls

Alarmed that water resources in the Finger Lakes will be targeted by large corporate water companies for privatization of municipal water services and for mining bottled water, the Finger Lakes Progressive Coalition and the Finger Lakes Group of the Sierra Club sponsored a Water Rights Protection Workshop June 9 and 10, 2006, at the Rural-Urban Center in Montour Falls. The workshop was for members of the public to learn how to prevent corporate control of water resources and services in our Finger Lakes and Southern Tier communities.

"Here in the Finger Lakes we take for granted ample supplies of fresh water, but as fresh water becomes an increasingly valuable commodity, large corporations are setting their sights on the giant reservoirs of fresh water in our lakes and aquifers for distribution and profit," said Rachel Treichler of Hammondsport, a member of the Sierra Club, and one of the organizers of the program.

"Members of the Finger Lakes Progressives are watching water privatization efforts in surrounding states; including Pennsylvania and N. H., with alarm," Jack Ossont of Yates county, coordinator of the Progressive Coalition, remarked. "Folks in the Finger Lakes have always regarded water as a resource for the use of all and we organized this workshop to help us keep it that way."

The workshop was led by two nationally known experts on community water issues: Victoria Kaplan, national organizer of the Water for All Campaign with Food and Water Watch in Washington, DC, and Ruth Caplan, national coordinator of the Alliance for Democracy's Defending Water for Life campaign and chair of Sierra Club's national Water Privatization Task Force.

Their presentations showed what communities can do when municipal water and sewer services are targeted for corporate takeover and when local water resources are targeted by bottling companies. The workshop featured discussion of who has the rights to make decisions about water usage in a community.

"From Mt. Shasta, California to Bigelow Mountain in Maine, Nestle and other giant corporations are pursuing big profits pumping pristine water from America's gems of nature to put in little plastic bottles", warns Ruth Caplan. "Now is the time to act, if you don't want this to happen to the Finger Lakes."

"Communities around the country and around the world have experienced major problems when a corporation gets control of their water--from rate increases to declining customer service," said Victoria Kaplan. "Luckily, residents of the Finger Lakes region have a great opportunity right now to protect their water for future generations."

Friday evening's program featured a showing of the prize-winning 62-minute documentary Thirst and a discussion of the issues it raises: Is water part of a shared commons, a human right for all people? Or is it a commodity to be bought, sold, and traded in a global marketplace?

In Saturday's program, Victoria Kaplan addressed municipal privatization issues and Ruth Caplan talked about how water bottling companies are taking local water supplies and what communities are doing about it.

The workshop schedule is at:

Learn more about Food and Water Watch at
Learn more about the Alliance for Democracy Defending Water for Life Campaign at
Learn more about the Sierra Club Water Privatization Task Force at
Learn more about the Finger Lakes Group of the Sierra Club at
Learn more about New York Democracy Schools at