Environmental groups seek to intervene in Exxon suit
TRENTON (AP) — Seven environmental groups filed legal paperwork with state Superior Court on Wednesday aiming to derail the Christie administration's proposed $225 million settlement with ExxonMobil.
The motion comes days after public comment on the proposal closed and as the Department of Environmental Protection reviews some 9,000 remarks on the deal.
The groups argue the state settled for too little money; the state had filed paperwork arguing damages were worth $8.9 billion.
If their motion succeeds they would be permitted argue their case before the judge rather than through the public comments alone, increasing but not guaranteeing the chances the deal would be blocked, said NY/NJ Baykeeper executive director Debbie Mans.
"This is not a settlement; it is a sellout of the taxpayers and the environment," New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel said.
The settlement was announced earlier this year and covers two petroleum plants in Bayonne and Linden, 16 other facilities across the state and all retail gas stations. ExxonMobil was found liable for polluting the environment at Bayonne and Linden, but the deal was announced as Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan was about to award damages.
Democrats who control the Legislature argue Christie accepted just pennies on the dollar for the pollution.
The governor has said it's the second-largest settlement against a single corporate defendant in the nation and points out ExxonMobil still must clean up the sites.
Public comment on the proposal closed Friday, and the Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing comments before submitting them to a judge. There is no set timeline for when a decision will be made.
The groups seeking to intervene are Natural Resources Defense Council, Clean Water Action, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Environment New Jersey, New Jersey Audubon, New Jersey Sierra Club and NY/NJ Baykeeper.
Administration and ExxonMobil spokespeople did not immediately return requests for comment.
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