TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey's state Senate has passed a resolution that calls for a judge to reject Gov. Chris Christie's $225 million settlement with Exxon Mobil.
Lawmakers approved the measure Monday, condemning the settlement between the Department of Environmental Protection and the Irving, Texas-based energy company.
The resolution touched off a heated debate on the Senate floor between Democrats, who criticize the governor over the deal, and Republicans, who said the resolution could interfere with a judge's pending review of the settlement.
"It's wrong," said Republican state Sen. Kevin O'Toole, who called on Republicans to abstain from voting. "You want to talk about violating the independent judiciary — we have it here."
Democrats who control the Legislature say the deal is far less than the $8.9 billion the state had sought and call it "grossly inappropriate, improper, and inadequate."
"This Exxon deal stinks," said Democratic state Sen. Ray Lesniak, one of the settlement's fiercest critics.
Christie has said that in addition to the proposed settlement, Exxon Mobil still carries responsibility for cleaning up the polluted sites in Bayonne and Linden.
The acting attorney general announced the deal, which stems from a 2004 lawsuit, earlier this month.
The agreement is far from final, though. It must undergo a 30-day public comment period, which won't begin until the proposal is posted in the state Register on April 6.
A judge must then rule, but there is no specific timeline attached to the process.
A spokesman for Christie did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment.