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Queens Chronicle

DEC: Letter warning of oil spill fines fake

Agency says oil cleanup is done for free

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Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:50 am, Thu Dec 27, 2012.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is warning Hurricane Sandy victims of a scam perpetrated by a group describing itself as a state agency similar to the DEC, aimed at people whose homes were damaged by heating oil spills in the storm.

A number of residents living in areas flooded by Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge in October — including Howard Beach, Broad Channel and the Rockaways — are receiving letters from a group claiming to be a state agency called the “Department of Remediation” warning of potential fines of $25,000 per day for not cleaning up oil spills caused by the storm. The fake agency utilizes a logo that looks like that of the DEC.

The letter points out sections of the New York State Navigation Law that requires those responsible for oil spills to promptly clean up those discharges, and says there could be a penalty of $25,000 a day for failure to complete that cleanup. It also states that any costs related to the DEC’s actions in spill cleanup would be the responsibility of the spiller.

“In the immediate aftermath of the Hurricane, the DEC provided spill cleanup services to more than 2,200 residences. For these actions, the DEC will not seek cost recovery from the homeowners,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “It is unconscionable that a company would try to take advantage of hurricane victims by threatening fines and then promoting the company as the solution.”

The DEC said it will not fine homeowners for discharging oil without a permit, or for delaying cleanup of residential oil spills due to Hurricane Sandy.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the Department of Financial Services are investigating the letters.

The DEC added that there were over 4,600 spills due to the hurricane, almost all on the shorelines affected by the storm surge. The DEC has so far responded to approximately 2,200 cases to recover oil, pumping approximately 500,000 gallons of oil and water.

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