Trenton – Turned down in his attempt to intervene in the legal settlement that would allow ExxonMobil to escape full responsibility for the extensive contamination of the environment, Senator Raymond Lesniak on Monday pledged to “keep up the fight on behalf of New Jersey residents” by filing an amicus brief, or friend of the court motion, to prevent the state from settling for cents on the dollar.
The environmental groups contend the proposed $225 million settlement doesn’t sufficiently cover the damage caused by Exxon’s refineries to an area spanning more than 1,500 acres of wetlands, meadows and waterways near Bayonne.
The judge ruled that the environmental groups did not pass two of the four legal tests that would have given them standing to intervene in the case.
Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan ruled that the interests of the environmental groups and Sen. They argue the state settled for too little after arguing for an $8.9 billion settlement.
The environmental groups have also complained that the settlement involves 16 other smaller sites as well as retail gasoline stations that were not part of the original case the state had brought against Exxon. “It is unfortunate because in this case the [state Department of Environmental Protection] is acting in bad faith”.
Before the judge could issue a decision, the state and Exxon informed the court in February that they had reached a proposed settlement.
“The court finds that the D.E.P. still adequately represents the Intervenors’ interest in the protection and restoration of natural resources located in New Jersey”, Hogan wrote in his 32-page decision. The DEP and the environmental groups “share the same ultimate goal, and their quarrel is only over the means employed to achieve that goal”, Hogan wrote.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said his group was considering appealing the judge’s decision. The environmental groups, including the New Jersey Audubon Society, New Jersey Sierra Club and NY/NJ Baykeeper, say the extent of the pollution at those sites is unclear and should be made public. If that occurs, it could push back the date of oral arguments by Exxon and the Christie administration on the actual settlement, which Hogan has scheduled for July 21. “I’m optimistic that the judge is going to reject the settlement”, he said.
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