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New York Attorney General To Sue Unless Exxon Admits Liability

January 11, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ State Attorney General Robert Abrams on Wednesday said he would sue Exxon Corp. for the Arthur Kill oil spill unless the company admits its liability and agrees to pay for damages within 48 hours.

″It is imperative that Exxon immediately accept its liability not only to clean up its spill, but also to fully compensate the state financially for the damage to New York state’s natural resources,″ Abrams said in a letter sent Wednesday to Exxon President Lee R. Raymond.

Abrams called on Exxon to pay for an immediate study ″to assess the damage to natural resources caused by the spill and to determine the best ways to restore our natural resources.″

Abrams said the study should be done under the supervision of the state.

More than 560,000 gallons of home heating oil leaked from an Exxon pipe into the Arthur Kill waterway off Staten Island on Jan. 2.

Abrams said the oil has contaminated ″critical waterfowl feeding and wetland areas of the environmentally sensitive Pralls Island bird sanctuary.″

Exxon has also been criticized for the handling of the spill of 11 million gallons of oil from the Exxon Valdez tanker last March 24 along 1,000 miles of Alaska coastline. It was the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

On Wednesday, Exxon said it had created a senior management position to deal with its safety plans.

Edwin J. Hess, an executive formerly in charge of marketing, refining and planning for international operations at the nation’s largest oil company, has been named to the new position of vice president, environment and safety.

Hess will report to Raymond.

Since the Alaska spill, Exxon shareholders have called on the company to show greater accountability. The company subsequently named an environmentali st to the board of directors and created a special committee to review environmental issues.

Abrams accused Exxon of creating a ″mini-Alaska″ in the Arthur Kill.

He said the damage was ″compounded by Exxon’s apparent failure to notify New York state and city environmental officials of the spill immediately upon its discovery.″

More than 200 birds have been found dead since the leak was detected.

A spokesman for Abrams, Leslie Gersing, said the attorney general would file a lawsuit if Exxon had not met his conditions by late Friday.

A spokesman for Exxon, Bill Smith, said the company did not receive the letter until after business hours and had no immediate comment.

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