The New Jersey state senate rejected a $225 million environmental settlement with ExxonMobil on Monday and called for a state judge to stop the deal.
The settlement would resolve a lawsuit brought against ExxonMobil by the state in 2004 for alleged contamination at two New Jersey refineries.
New Jersey senators passed a resolution condemning the proposed settlement, calling it “grossly inappropriate” and a violation of “the public trust.”
The resolution passed by a 24-0 vote, NJ Spotlight said.
A New Jersey state supreme court judge was determining damages for the lawsuit when the settlement was reached in early March, the New York Times said.
The fine is the single largest environmental settlement with a corporate defendant in New Jersey history but has been criticized by some as too small.
Former New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection commissioner Bradley M. Campbell called the deal an “embarrassment” in a New York Times op-ed earlier this month.
In the editorial Campbell claimed New Jersey governor Chris Christie “elbowed aside the attorney general” and made a deal with Exxon.
Christie has denied any involvement with the settlement.
“The Exxon settlement is a good deal. The attorney general makes the decision. I don’t interfere with the attorney general,” Christie said at a town hall meeting after news of the deal broke.
The state was initially seeking an $8.9 billion fine to settle contamination claims tied to ExxonMobil’s Bayonne and Bayway facilities.
Under the proposed settlement the company would be responsible for ongoing cleanup efforts at the sites, the New Jersey state attorney general said.
ExxonMobil will also foot the bill for required investigation and remediation work at the two sites that will be performed under the state’s supervision.
The settlement would also resolve some liability tied to contamination claims at 16 other facilities and retail service stations in New Jersey.
“This important settlement, which came about because this administration aggressively pushed the case to trial, is the result of long fought settlement negotiations that pre-dated and post-dated the trial,” New Jersey’s acting attorney general John J. Hoffman said when the deal was announced.
Governor Christie said earlier this month that the deal still “preserves the state’s claims against ExxonMobil with respect to natural resource damages to the Arthur Kill, Newark Bay.”
The agreement must still undergo a 30 day public comment period and receive approval from a superior court judge.