Environmental groups file motion to intervene in Exxon settlement litigation

The Assembly Judiciary Committee holds its final public hearing on the Exxon settlement in Bayonne, one of the primary contamination sites.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee holds its final public hearing on the Exxon settlement in Bayonne, one of the primary contamination sites.

TRENTON — A team of environmental groups opposed to the state’s controversial $225 milllion settlement with Exxon Mobil want to go to court to over the deal, just a handful of days before it is expected to be approved by a judge.

Eight groups filed a motion today to intervene in litigation with the oil giant, which ended agreed to a long-awaited settlement earlier this year over decades of toxic soil and water damage at dozens of former refineries and gas stations in the state. The groups — whose representative have been some of the most outspoken critics of the deal over the last several weeks, during which it was investigated by the legislature and petitioned by the public during a 60-day comment period — argue the proposed settlement should be rejected because it is far too low to restore and replace the region’s valuable ecosystems and make New Jersey residents whole for the loss of their use.

“This is a bad deal for the people of New Jersey, and a steal for this multi-billion-dollar oil giant,” said Margaret Brown, attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Exxon turned this area into a toxic waste dump for more than a century. This big polluter should be held accountable for its dirty legacy, and restore the area to its former glory, once and for all.”

The motion was filed in New Jersey State Superior Court in Union County by The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Columbia Environmental Law Clinic, on behalf of Clean Water Action, Delaware Riverkeeper and Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Environment New Jersey, NJ Audubon, NY/NJ Baykeeper, NRDC, and Sierra Club New Jersey. The groups urged the judge scheduled to rule on the settlement, Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan, to toss out the $225 million figure in favor of what they argue would be a fairer deal.

The state originally sought some $8.9 billion in reparations for the damages incurred to sites like Bayway and Linden, where Exxon once operated major oil refineries.

“Exxon needs to be held fully accountable for their crimes against the environment and our communities, that includes being held fully and directly accountable for the damage they have inflicted on the Delaware River and all of the communities that depend upon our river for healthy and quality lives,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “We are moving to intervene in this action, to ensure that Exxon and all those who would damage our natural resources understand that they cannot and will not be let off lightly for harming present and future generations and to ensure that Exxon is held fully accountable.”

Environmental groups file motion to intervene in Exxon settlement litigation