On Friday October 9th, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan ruled to give the green light to a $225 million settlement between the state of New Jersey and Exxon Mobil over contaminated gas stations. The settlement had been challenged by Clean Water Action, Delaware Riverkeeper, Environment New Jersey, and the New Jersey Sierra Club, and State Sen. Raymond Lesniak. Judge Hogan said the groups did not have standing to bring forward such a suit in the first place.
The settlement caps a suit that has been going on for over a decade. Negotiated under Chris Christie, the state says it avoids a protracted and costly legal battle. Reuters reports that environmental groups are incensed because the settlement accounts for less than 3 percent of the $8.9 billion in damages that the state was originally seeking.
The original source of the damage came from a number of sources. Foremost among these were 1,700 gas stations, but refinery facilities in Bayonne and Linden also contributed to the contamination, as did several other Exxon Mobil facilities. This only added to the concern of some to questions raised about Exxon’s refinery safety standards after last year’s California refinery explosion.
The deal as it stands requires Exxon to cap and fill the sites, preventing further contamination, but does not require cleanup of any existing contaminants that may or may not be in the area. Opponents of the settlement see this as an indispensable point in any deal reached with Exxon Mobil.
“This deal only requires Exxon to cap and fill the sites,” said the New Jersey Sierra Club in a statement on their website, “which is not really a cleanup. Instead of cleaning it up, they would leave tons of oil and chemicals in the ground. These sites are extremely contaminated and impact streams and wetlands.”
This deal only requires Exxon to cap and fill the sites, which is not really a cleanup. Instead of cleaning it up, they would leave tons of oil and chemicals in the ground. These sites are extremely contaminated and impact streams and wetlands.
While Judge Hogan has ruled against intervention in the deal-making process, Senator Lesniak and the environmental groups are appealing the ruling, calling the settlement ‘the biggest sellout of taxpayer money in state history.’