A Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of the state’s $225 million settlement with ExxonMobil to resolve liability for thousands of acres of land polluted by refinery sites the corporation had in Linden, Bayonne and other parts of New Jersey.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Superior Court Judge Michael J. Hogan ruled that the settlement is fair and in the best interests of the public.
“After giving considerable time and thought to its task, for the reasons stated in this opinion, the court finds that the proposed consent judgment is fair, reasonable, in the public interest, and consistent with the goals of the Spill Compensation and Control Act (“Spill Act”)… It therefore approves the Consent Judgment,” he wrote in a voluminous 82-page judgement.
NJ Acting Attorney General John Jay Hoffman announced that the settlement was in the works back in March, with Democratic leaders such as Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) and Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman John McKeon (D-27) expressing outrage over the proposed figure.
The estimated damages caused by ExxonMobil totaled a whopping $8.9 billion.
The judiciary committee heard from state Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20) and various concerned citizens at Bayonne City Hall in June to get the public’s input on the long-standing legal battle, with many residents – as well as Lesniak – speaking out against the $225 million settlement.
Meanwhile, Hoffman stuck to his guns and applauded the ruling in a prepared statement.
“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,” he said.
“Through this settlement, we have ensured the continuation of ExxonMobil’s cleanup obligation at these contaminated sites, and held the company financially accountable through a historic Natural Resource Damages settlement.”
State Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin, in the same statement, also expressed his satisfaction with the settlement, exclaiming that “ExxonMobile is being held account for contamination.”
Last month, Hogan blocked environmental groups and Lesniak from intervening in the court matter, though a couple of those groups have already vowed that the fight isn’t over yet.
“In one of the saddest days environmental in a long time, today the judge upheld the Exxon settlement. Today the people lost but the fight will continue. We are very disappointed with the Judge’s decision to accept the outrageous Exxon settlement,” said Jeff Tittel, the Director of the NJ Sierra Club, in a statement.
“The judge has rubberstamped the biggest corporate subsidy in state history. Not only did the Christie Administration settle for less than one penny on the dollar for billions of dollars in damages, but the judge went along with it.”
“Instead of going after $9 billion and requiring restoration we are entitled; the Judge has allowed the dirty deal to go through.”
Additionally, Doug O’Malley, the Director of Environmental New Jersey, called Hogan’s decision “a slap in the face to New Jersey,” also stating the group will be pursuing further legal action.