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Fort La Presentation left out of ExxonMobil’s $8.05 million Lighthouse Point cleanup settlement

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OGDENSBURG — The president of the Fort La Presentation Association said she was “blindsided” Friday by state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s announcement of an $8.05 million settlement with the ExxonMobil Oil Corp. for the cleanup of a former oil storage facility at Lighthouse Point.

The energy company will reimburse the state for costs for the site’s 2006-07 cleanup of an oil storage facility at the site, on a peninsula along the St. Lawrence and Oswegatchie rivers. The settlement will go toward the costs incurred by the state’s Environmental Protection and Spill Compensation Fund in the state comptroller’s office to investigate and remediate the spill.

But Barbara J. O’Keefe said the Fort Association was promised a $2.25 million spill fund share of a $6 million settlement with ExxonMobil in December 2006 that never came through and was replaced by Friday’s agreement that left the fort group out.

“I’m totally blindsided,” she said. “I’m totally disappointed that we weren’t part of the settlement.”

The association, Mrs. O’Keefe said Friday, still plans to pursue compensation for losses resulting from petroleum contamination of its Lighthouse Point property, where it wants to build a replica of the 1749 mission fort built by French Sulpician priest Abbe Francois Picquet. It was Northern New York’s first European and Native American settlement.

So far, according to Mrs. O’Keefe, ExxonMobil has paid the association $100,000 for technical and legal fees.

The settlement was reached last week in Albany County Supreme Court.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Schneiderman’s office in New York declined Friday to explain why the 2006 settlement fell through as well as why the association was left out of the new agreement.

From the late 1800s until 1984, ExxonMobil and preceding companies owned and operated oil storage facilities on the point. It was composed of a barge dock for the receipt of petroleum deliveries via the Oswegatchie River and the main rail terminal.

In July 2001, petroleum contamination was discovered at the site when an environmental assessment found contaminated soil on a parcel next to the main terminal. An investigation revealed petroleum contamination in and around the former main terminal and near underground pipelines connecting the terminal to the river.

The main terminal contained seven above-ground tanks that stored gasoline, diesel, fuel oil and kerosene, a truck loading rack and 1,500 feet of subsurface pipelines that connected the barge dock to the terminal. An estimated 8 billion gallons of petroleum were distributed annually from the terminal to tanker trucks for retail distribution during its operation.

“It’s only right that corporations who jeopardize the sanctity of New York’s natural resources should have to pay for the damage they caused,” Mr. Schneiderman said in a news release. “Through today’s agreement, we’re not only returning millions to the state but also holding ExxonMobil responsible for their role in this oil spill. My office is glad to have secured the best deal for New Yorkers and for our environment.”

Mrs. O’Keefe disagreed.

“We weren’t even part of the discussion,” she said.

Mayor William D. Nelson was pleased with Mr. Schneiderman’s announcement.

But he hoped for more.

“I think it’s great news that ExxonMobil has agreed reimburse the state,” Mr. Nelson said. “It’d be nice if they gave some of that money to Fort La Presentation. We all want to see some buildings up there.”

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