Environmentalists, senator appeal to intervene in Exxon case

AP News
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Posted: Oct 21, 2015 1:40 PM

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Environmental groups and a senator have appealed a judge's ruling that they can't intervene in the state's $225 million settlement with Exxon Mobil over contaminated gas stations and other sites.

The New Jersey Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Environment New Jersey, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and state Sen. Raymond Lesniak filed their appeals last week.

Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan said Oct. 9 that he denied their request because they didn't have standing to bring the lawsuit. It's the second time Hogan has denied their petition in a case that stretches back to 2004.

Hogan approved the settlement in August after a 66-day trial and a 60-day public comment period, saying it was a reasonable compromise considering the substantial legal risks the state faced.

The state originally had argued Exxon should pay $8.9 billion for pollution at about 1,700 retail gasoline stations, two oil refineries in northern New Jersey and more than a dozen other sites across the state. But shortly before Hogan ruled, the state and the company announced a deal that would result in the state recouping $225 million.

Gov. Chris Christie's administration said pursuing the nearly $9 billion could have resulted in lengthy — and costly — litigation.

It's not clear exactly how much the environmental groups wanted the state to recover, but they sought substantially more than $225 million. The groups also wanted to force extensive cleanup efforts at the affected sites.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and Hogan have said Exxon will be required to remediate the sites. Environmental groups worry those efforts will be too minimal.

The cleanup cost has not been determined yet, but the Irving, Texas-based company has already paid nearly $260 million on remediation since 1991.

The state opposed the environmentalists' intervention, saying nothing has changed this time around.