Christie, Defending Exxon Deal, Says Environmental Damage Will Be Repaired

The state’s lawsuits, filed in 2004, advanced to trial last year. At that point, Exxon’s liability, for pollution caused by two refineries in Linden and Bayonne, was no longer in dispute. The issue was how much the company would have to pay in damages, and the judge was to rule after closing briefs were filed in November.

Mr. Christie, on Tuesday, in citing Exxon’s obligation to “fix what they created” without a limit on cost, was referring to the provisions of a 1991 consent order that Exxon reached with the state to clean up the contaminated refinery sites. In announcing the settlement last week, state officials cited that agreement, and noted that Exxon “has proposed plans to clean up the contamination” at its expense under state supervision.

But New Jersey’s 2004 lawsuits covered different issues, seeking recovery for damages to the state’s natural resources and for their loss of use to the public.

Lawyers for the Christie administration had argued that the cost of primary restoration of the sites was $2.6 billion; they also sought an additional $6.3 billion for what the state described as “loss of use” damages, to compensate the public for not being able to use the land. Exxon argued vigorously that it owed no such damages.

The governor, in praising the $225 million settlement, did not say how the state intended to use the money, if it is ultimately approved by the judge.

Mr. Christie called the deal “a really good settlement.” He also praised the earlier consent order, its lack of a cap on costs and the fact that the remediation of the sites would “have to keep going until we say it’s cleaned up.”

Lawmakers and environmental advocates have vowed to try to block the settlement, complaining that the state got pennies on the dollar, and that Mr. Christie was resolving the case so he could use the money to help fill holes in the state budget.

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said on Tuesday: “Under New Jersey law, the public has the right to be compensated for the loss of public resources. By settling this case, the governor has violated that public trust.”

Last week, the state said that the deal would also resolve Exxon’s liability for “relatively minor” claims related to 16 “additional facilities” and company service stations, which had not been part of the refinery litigation.

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