The New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee will meet in Bayonne City Hall next week to publicly discuss the state’s proposed $225 million settlement, negotiated by Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s administration, with ExxonMobil.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Assembly Judiciary Chairman John McKeon (D-27) announced the committee will meet Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in Bayonne, inside municipal court chambers, to hear public comment on the proposed $225 million settlement between the Christie administration and ExxonMobil.
The settlement is regarding the environmental damage caused by Exxon’s refinery operations in Bayonne and Linden.
“The Assembly has made its voice clear in opposing this settlement, but I also want to make sure those directly impacted by this environmental damage get a chance to make their voices heard,” McKeon said in a statement.
“This settlement is a slap in the face, especially those who live in the areas affected by the contamination, yet it’s barely a slap on the wrist for Exxon. The public deserves the chance to express their opinion and be heard loud and clear.”
The committee has held several hearings on the proposed settlement, and on May 14 the Assembly approved a McKeon-sponsored resolution (AR-242) opposing the proposed settlement.
The resolution respectfully urged the court presiding over the proposed settlement to reject it because it “shocks the conscience in light of undisputed evidence of significant damage to, and loss of, the state’s natural resources caused by pollution at the Bayway and Bayonne oil refinery sites and at certain other ExxonMobil sites in New Jersey.”
The Assembly resolution noted that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s own experts estimated that restoration of former wetlands, meadows, forests and intertidal habitat, and compensation for decades of contamination, at the Bayway and Bayonne sites would cost $8.9 billion.
That figure includes $2.6 billion for primary restoration and $6.3 billion for compensatory damages, and $1.2 million for assessment costs.
Instead, the Christie administration and Exxon agreed to a $225 million settlement, which not only exempts ExxonMobil from all natural resource damages claims and liability from the Bayway and Bayonne facilities, but 16 other different facilities owned or operated by Exxon.
Back in March, McKeon and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) asked for answers from the Christie administration on the Exxon settlement figure, while the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders passed a resolution also opposing the proposed settlement.
The NJ Assembly Judiciary Committee also consists of Assemblymen Benjie Wimberly (D-35), Joseph Lagana (D-38), Michael Carroll (R-25), Committee Vice Chairman Gordon Johnson (D-37) and Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-39).