New Jersey announced a $225 million settlement with Exxon Mobil on Thursday, March 5, that initially sought $9 billion and is said to be the largest environmental settlement against a corporate defendant in history.
Texas-based Exxon Mobil’s petroleum refining plants in Linden and Bayonne fouled the land and water, and the company was sued for contaminating more than 1,500 acres of wetlands and waters. New Jersey has been battling with the company for over 11 years; the lawsuit was not made public back when it was filed in 2004.
A state judge said that the company was the cause of a public nuisance. Another judge was going to make an estimation for damage cost based on evidence he heard, but the attorneys on both sides sent him a letter asking him to wait.
They finally reached a settlement for $225 million that covers not only Bayonne and Linden, but 16 other Exxon Mobil sites around New Jersey as well. Exxon Mobil would also have to pay for any environmental damage caused by their gasoline stations.
Democratic lawmakers and environmentalists reacted angrily to the settlement.
However, at a town hall meeting in Somerville, Governor Chris Christie counteracted by saying, “It’s actually a really good settlement. They have to fix everything that they polluted up to state standards and there is no cap on what they have to pay.”
Although Governor Christie commented on the settlement, Exxon will not make any comments.
The settlement that was proposed by the attorneys is expected to be published in the New Jersey Register on April 6. There will also be a 30-day public comment period for the settlement. Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan will then approve the finalized settlement that New Jersey and Exxon Mobil put together.
“All I want is for this settlement to repair the damage it has done to the environment. I want the wetlands and waters to be chemical free and safe,” said freshman Kayla Heizer.
Even though a settlement was made, it was not made clear how New Jersey will spend the $225 million.
Acting Attorney a General John J. Hoffman said the money would be available in fiscal year 2016 at the earliest, meaning the first $50 million of the settlement must go toward cleaning up the sites while the rest will go into the state’s general funds. This term became law for the 2015 budget year.
State Senator Paul Sarlo, chairman of the budget committe, and President Steve Sweeney will use the budget process to make sure the settlement money is used for the environmental cleanup.
How do you feel about Exxon Mobil ruining the environment?