Tuesday, June 11, 2013

NJDEP in $130M partial settlement of Passaic River suit

The New Jersey Attorney General's office and the Department of Environmental Protection today announced that several principal defendants in the Passaic River litigation have agreed to pay the state $130 million to resolve a portion of the state’s claims related to contamination of the Passaic River.

The settling defendants are Spain-based oil and gas conglomerate Repsol, S.A, Argentina-based energy conglomerate YPF, S.A., YPF Holdings, Inc. and YPF International, as well as CLH Holdings, Inc., Maxus Energy Corporation, Maxus International Energy Company and Tierra Solutions, Inc.

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The agreement follows a recently-announced $35.4 million proposed settlement with 258 third-party defendants.

New Jersey now going after on Occidental

The state now plans to focus on its claims against the principal defendant, Occidental Chemical Corporation (OCC), the legal successor to Diamond Shamrock, for the bulk
of its damage claims and future costs.

The Attorney General said that the state also will  pursue OCC for damages resulting from the intentional discharge of Agent Orange, dioxins and other hazardous substances by the former Diamond Shamrock plant. These costs and damages, the Attorney General said, are separate from, and in addition to, the $130 Million received from the settling defendants.

In previous litigation, NJ’s Appellate Division determined that Diamond Shamrock intentionally dumped hazardous pollutants into the Passaic River for decades.

See: A sick river, from those who brought you Agent Orange]

Under terms of the agreement announced today, the settling defendants’ total exposure to all claims for Passaic River cleanup and removal costs and damages could go as high as $530 million, subject to certain conditions and exceptions.

NY/NJ Baykeeper Debbie Mans said her organization "appreciates the State of New Jersey's vigilance on holding accountable the polluters of the Passaic River." She urged that money received from the settling parties be used to repair the harm done to the river and not be re-directed to the state's general fund. 

The Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel, an unwavering critic of the Administration of Gov. Chris Christie, called the settlement a "giveaway to polluters," claiming that the size of the settlement would be insufficient for the cleanup. 

He said the Sierra Club also is concerned that the state "will not go after these companies for natural resource damages since it is not part of the settlement. "

"The Natural Resource Damages alone should be over a billion dollars along with the cost of the clean is at least two billion, " Tittel said.

Related environmental news:
Today's announcement by the NJ Attorney General and the DEP
Follow NPR down New Jersey's tragic Passaic River

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