New Jersey Court Approves Bad Deal Between Christie Administration & ExxonMobil Over Decades of Oil Refinery Pollution
MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. (August 25, 2015) – A New Jersey court today approved a settlement between ExxonMobil and Governor Chris Christie’s administration over damages due for decades of toxic soil and water contamination in the northern part of the state. The settlement gives the oil giant a more than 98 percent discount on the state’s original price tag for restoring and replacing the resources.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, along with six other environmental groups, made several efforts to block the settlement.
A statement follows from Margaret Brown, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council:
“This is a multi-billion-dollar gift to ExxonMobil from Gov. Christie and his administration, at the expense of New Jersey residents.
“After a decade-long court battle, this spring the Christie administration abruptly and inexplicably gave the oil giant a more than 98 percent discount on the damages due for its destruction.
“This is a slap on the wrist that will do nothing to repair environmental damage the state itself called ‘as obvious as it is staggering and unprecedented in New Jersey.’”
Exxon's corporate predecessors began operating at Bayonne in 1877, and at the Bayway Refinery in Linden in 1909.
Exxon filled wetlands to develop the sites, spilled petroleum products and other hazardous substances from its refineries and chemical plants onto the land and into the water there, and used natural areas as primitive waste dumps. In addition to heavy and pervasive contamination at the sites, the pollution migrated to the waters of the Upper New York Bay and the Arthur Kill, which separates Staten Island from mainland New Jersey.
The New Jersey state court held Exxon liable for damages to the sites. At a trial to fix the amount of damages Exxon would have to pay, the state’s witnesses described once-healthy salt marshes smothered in contaminated fill and other wastes, unlined pits of mixed oily wastes more than 10 feet deep, and extensive chemical soil contamination. They described the Bayonne site as so saturated with oil that there is more than 15 feet of petroleum waste floating on top of the underlying groundwater in some places. In other places, petroleum has leached from the ground and hardened, creating an asphalt-like material on the surface.
In its final brief before proposing the settlement, the state described the scope of the environmental damage resulting from the discharges “as obvious as it is staggering and unprecedented in New Jersey.”