The multi-million-dollar settlement between the state of New Jersey and the Exxon oil company for environmental damages should be reopened, Sen. Ray Lesniak argued before an appellate court in Trenton yesterday.
New Jersey originally filed suit against the oil giant in 2004, seeking $8.9 billion in environmental damages it said originated as long ago as a century. Exxon initially argued it should pay nothing. But in 2015, the two sides settled, with Exxon agreeing to pay the state $225 million.
Lesniak and a number of environmental groups are challenging that settlement. “This is the biggest environmental pollution case in the history of the United States of America, not just New Jersey,” Lesniak said outside the courthouse. “It’s nearly 150 years of pollution, it’s not going to be settled adequately for $225 million.” The $225 million, he said, amounted to “less than three cents on a dollar… on what we should be getting — closer to billions and billions of dollars.”
“We’re here doing the job that the DEP and state of New Jersey should be doing,” Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said.
Allan Kanner, attorney for the DEP, told the court the settlement was a good deal. He said that not only did the state get cash, but it also got leverage for other cases and “avoided risk of further litigation.”
Exxon’s attorney, Ted Wells, said the public had the opportunity to give comments when the DEP settled the case and the public was heard at the trial stage. Arguing there is no basis for this intervention in the case, he said people “shouldn’t be allowed to come at the last minute.”
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