New Jersey Assembly condemns proposed $225M Exxon settlement
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The New Jersey Assembly is condemning a proposed $225 million settlement in an environmental dispute with ExxonMobil that Republican Gov. Chris Christie has described as "a really good deal."
The Democrat-majority Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution Thursday, criticizing the deal the state attorney general and the New Jersey Environmental Protection Department reached with the oil giant.
Democrats consider the settlement figure well below what ExxonMobil should pay for contaminating the environment at two petroleum plants in Bayonne and Linden, and note that the government originally indicated the state could get nearly $9 billion.
"The state originally asked for almost $9 billion in damages. Settling for a fraction of that is a slap in the face for New Jersey residents," said Democratic Assemblyman John McKeon, who sponsored the resolution.
The corporation has been found liable for the damage, and McKeon said the court has repeatedly ruled in the state's favor.
But Republicans criticized the resolution and questioned whether New Jersey would have recovered any money had it pursued the higher amount.
"We have never once won a case similar to this," said Republican Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi.
The vote was 45-16, with nine Assembly members abstaining.
The settlement proposal is undergoing a public comment period that's scheduled to end in June. A judge will rule whether to accept the settlement.
The Christie administration says the proposal is among the largest in state history, and Christie has pointed out that ExxonMobil is legally required to clean up the contaminated sites in addition to the proposed settlement.
"It's actually a really good deal," the governor said at a town hall meeting in March.
Christie is considering a run for the 2016 presidential race and has said he would announce his decision in June.