Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

N.J., Exxon Settlement Deal OK'd ; Judge Approves $225 Million Deal in 2004 Lawsuit; State Claimed Damage to Natural Resources

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

N.J., Exxon Settlement Deal OK'd ; Judge Approves $225 Million Deal in 2004 Lawsuit; State Claimed Damage to Natural Resources

Article excerpt

TRENTON, N.J. - A New Jersey judge approved a $225 million deal Tuesday between Gov. Chris Christie's administration and ExxonMobil over dozens of polluted sites and nearly 2,000 retail gas stations, ending an 11-year legal battle that the state calls historic and opponents call a sell-out.

Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan ruled that while the deal is much less than the $8.9 billion the state originally sought, it is a "reasonable compromise considering "substantial litigation risks faced by the state in the case that spanned both Democratic and Republican governors.

The settlement is "fair, reasonable, in the public interest, and consistent with the goals of the Spill Compensation and Control Act, the judge wrote, noting that the settlement is on top of Exxon's responsibility to clean up the sites.

New Jersey sued ExxonMobil for natural resources damage in 2004. The idea was to hold the company responsible not only for cleaning up polluted areas - which include two oil refineries in Bayonne and Linden and other sites and retail gas stations across New Jersey - but to compensate the public for the alleged harm to groundwater, surface water and other ecological resources.

Christie, a Republican running for his party's presidential nomination, has hailed the deal as the nation's second-largest of its kind against a corporate polluter.

"This is an important settlement for the citizens of New Jersey and for our environment, one which came about because this administration aggressively pushed the case to trial, Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said.

The deal was criticized by environmental groups and Democrats, a majority in the state Legislature, who say the settlement is just a fraction of the billions of dollars New Jersey should have recovered.

Doug O'Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, said in a statement that Exxon's massive damage to New Jersey's environment couldn't have been more clear. …

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