Lesniak vows to challenge ‘grossly inadequate’ settlement with Exxon Mobil for polluted sites

Reacting to a reported settlement by the Christie Administration with Exxon Mobil that would allow the oil company to pay $250 million for $8.9 billion in environmental damage to sites in Bayonne and Linden, state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) vowed today to challenge the settlement “every step of the way until the state gets just compensation for the damage done by the company’s Bayway and Bayonne refineries to more than 1,500 acres of wetlands, meadows and waterways destroyed or damaged”

“I grew up under that giant Exxon sign in the Bayway section of Elizabeth and feel personally offended at this weak effort by the Christie Administration in securing fair compensation for the extensive contamination admittedly done by Exxon Mobile to our environment,” Lesniak said in a statement.

“They are settling for three cents on the dollar in a case where Exxon’s responsibility has already been established. This is a grossly inadequate amount of compensation that lets the mega oil company off the hook.”

The lawsuits, originally filed in 2004 by the state Department of Environmental Protection and aggressively pursued by three administrations, went to trial last year with Exxon’s liability already established. With a Superior Court judge expected to rule on damages, the Christie Administration asked the court to hold off on its decision.

A news account by The New York Times disclosed the reported $250 million settlement.

Lesniak stated he has many opportunities to challenge the proposed settlement and will pursue “each and every one of them,” including filing a public comment in opposition to the settlement with NJDEP and, if necessary, an appeal to the Appellate Division.

Lesniak said the agreement can be overturned if it is fraudulent, arbitrary or capricious and that this settlement “certainly appears to be arbitrary and capricious, to say the least.”

A spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie referred all inquiries from NJ Advance Media to the Attorney General’s Office.

A spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office would not provide a copy of a reported agreement of the suit or confirm any settlement figure on Friday.

“We do not have a final document,” the spokesman, Paul Loriquet, told NJ Advance Media. “It has not been signed by the parties and has not been submitted to the court.”

If the settlement is completed, it is possible that some or even none of the money would go toward environmental costs in the Exxon case, The New York Times reported.

An appropriations law in New Jersey allows money beyond the first $50 million collected in such cases in the current fiscal year to go toward balancing the state budget, a state fiscal analyst said.

Source: http://www.nj.com/hudson/index.ssf/2015/03/lesniak_vows_to_challenge_grossly_inadequate_settl.html