Tuesday, July 7, 2015

NJ out to block suit challenging Exxon pollution settlement

S.P. Sullivan reports today for NJ.com that New Jersey State officials are "looking to block a coalition of environmental groups and a ranking Democratic lawmaker from intervening in a multi-million dollar settlement agreement between the state and Exxon Mobil over pollution at industrial sites across New Jersey."
Oral arguments are slated for Friday in the dispute, which pits the state Department of Environmental Protection and attorney general's office against critics who say they settled for pennies on the dollar in the decade-long pollution lawsuit.
In court papers filed Monday, lawyers for the state called the agreement — which stems from contamination at two refineries in Hudson and Union counties — an "historic resolution of natural resource damages."
They argue that separate motions to intervene in the suit filed by the environmental groups and State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union) last month "would only serve to complicate and lengthen an already old and complex case."
The settlement, which still needs to be approved by a Superior Court judge, would require the Texas oil giant to pay $225 million to compensate the public for decades of contamination at the two refineries, as well as gas stations and industrial sites across the state.
Lawmakers and environmental advocates cried foul when the details of the agreement were made public because attorneys for the state argued at a trial last year that the damage wrought by Exxon was worth $8.9 billion.
National Resources Defense Council reaction: 

Throughout and following a long trial last year, New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection argued that ExxonMobil owed the state $8.9 billion in damages to restore and replace the damaged natural resources--and make New Jersey residents whole for their loss. That figure was based on calculations from extensive state-commissioned expert studies.

In April of this year, however, the parties proposed settling for just $225 million, with no explanation for the drastic reduction. To make matters worse, the proposed settlement wraps in and releases Exxon from paying natural resource damages at all of its current and former gas stations (more than 800 total, according to news estimates) and sixteen other sites across New Jersey.

The proposed settlement is a giveaway to this big polluter, at the expense of the people of New Jersey. Exxon should be held accountable for its dirty legacy, and restore the area to its former glory, once and for all.                                  
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