Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) and Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman John McKeon (D-27) announced today plans to convene a hearing on Gov. Chris Christie’s controversial decision to settle an $8.9 billion lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corporation for just $250 million.
“If what’s been reported is accurate, then this is an egregiously irresponsible decision that raises many, many questions and concerns,” Prieto said in a statement today. “The public health of our residents and our environment are priorities, especially in areas long subject to pollution and misuse. That’s why this settlement would be difficult to comprehend. Taxpayers deserve a public discussion as to how such a decision could be made. The Assembly intends to give it to them.”
First reported by the New York Times, the governor’s administration settled the Exxon lawsuits — originally filed in 2004 by the state Department of Environmental Protection over contamination and loss of use of more than 1,500 acres of wetlands, marshes, meadows and waters in North Jersey – for $250 million, despite the company’s liability already established.
The paltry settlement has many criticizing Christie for once again cross-pollinating his home-state responsibilities with his burgeoning presidential ambitions, including the legislature’s top Democrat leaders.
Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20) have vowed to challenge Christie’s settlement in court, with Lesniak calling it “grossly inadequate.” Now, the Assembly is piling on.
“The reported settlement is appalling and disturbing,” said McKeon. “The Christie administration appears more interested in rewarding Exxon Mobil – for whatever reason – than protecting taxpayers and our environment. This calls into question Gov. Christie’s leadership and decision-making abilities. Gov. Christie and his administration owe the people of New Jersey a clear public explanation. This will be there chance to provide it. I don’t want excuses. I want answers.”
Prieto and McKeon said the hearing would be held Thursday, March 19.