Occidental Petroleum Unit Reaches Pollution Settlement With New York State

Occidental Chemical Corp. has agreed to pay $12 million in damages due to chemical leaks into Lake Ontario.

Occidental Chemical, a unit of Occidental Petroleum Corp., has agreed to pay New York $12 million to settle the state's natural resource damage claim for Lake Ontario and its tributaries.

The state filed a lawsuit against Occidental Chemical to address pollution problems related to Occidental's Niagara Falls manufacturing plant. The settlement represents the final claim in that lawsuit and addresses the damages caused as a result of the discharge of dangerous chemicals.

The NRD claim arises under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (Superfund), and state common law, to compensate the people of the state for natural resource injuries caused by the release to the environment of pollutants. The settlement amount reflects an assessment of the harm suffered by the state's residents as a result of the fish consumption advisories necessitated by the presence of chemicals in the fish of Lake Ontario.

The settlement is one of the largest NRD settlements in the country for lost recreational fishing use. The proceeds of the settlement will be used to restore, replace or acquire resources comparable to the injured natural resources.

In the settlement, the state has also agreed to release Occidental Chemical Corporation from further liability for the past actions that caused the damages in the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River and their tributaries. The state acknowledges the cooperation of Occidental Chemical Corporation in reaching this settlement. Under previous settlements with New York, Occidental agreed to identify and eliminate releases of pollutants from its plant sites.

The settlement agreement was approved by the United States District Court for the Western District of New York on June 21, 2006. The first payment of $2.4 million is due within 30 days; each of four additional payments is due on the anniversary of the approval date.

Lake Ontario and its embayments and tributaries support populations of a variety of fish, ranging from trout and salmon, bass and walleye to yellow perch and panfish. New York's waters of Lake Ontario comprise over 2.7 million acres.

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