Rumored Settlement Over New Jersey Contamination May Let Exxon Off the Hook

This coming Monday, April 6, the State of New Jersey and Exxon Mobil are reportedly expected to release the details of a proposed settlement over damages due for more than a century of soil and groundwater contamination across more than 1,500 acres of wetlands, marshes, meadows, and waters in Bayonne and Linden (a.k.a. Bayway), New Jersey.

A court previously found Exxon liable for the contamination of these sites as a result of their oil refining and petrochemical operations in the area. The question now at hand is how much money the company owes the state in Natural Resource Damages--or in other words, to make the state whole for the resources destroyed and the loss of their use for more than 100 years.

New Jersey initially sought to prove that Exxon owes the state $8.9 billion. However, when the court appeared ready to decide the case this winter, after a lengthy trial, both parties asked the court to hold off its ruling in light of a potential settlement. The details of that proposed settlement are expected to be announced next week--and news reports put it at $225 million, or approximately 3 cents on the dollar, of what New Jersey has argued it is owed.

If the news reports are accurate, this settlement could be a giveaway to the multi-billion-dollar oil giant, at the expense of the people of New Jersey. It may not come close to holding Exxon accountable for the decades of pollution it caused in these communities.

It is New Jersey's duty to fight for a fair and reasonable recovery for its citizens. NRDC looks forward to investigating whether the rumored settlement would be a bad deal for New Jersey residents and we will be closely reviewing the official details of the settlement when it is released.

These communities deserve justice after suffering for more than a century while this powerful corporation profited at their expense. It's long past time for Exxon to make it right. That means paying the state a reasonable price for the long legacy of environmental destruction--not short-changing it.

About the Authors

Margaret Brown

Senior Attorney, NY Regional, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

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