LETTER “Super Bowl” For Exxon Settlement: Enviro Groups Proved Violations Today in Court

Today the Sierra Club and environmental groups proved important violations in Court against the Exxon settlement. Arguments were made concerning violations to the Spill Act, Natural Resource Damages, and the Public Trust Doctrine. The groups’ motion to intervene plans to show that this settlement is wrong and Exxon should be responsible for the environmental damages impacted and would uphold these laws. Though the Judge denied the stay, the groups will still move forward and appeal the settlement in the Appellate Court. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club issued the following statement:

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“Today is the Super Bowl of the Exxon Settlement. We had our day in court and proved why the settlement should be blocked. We argued that the settlement clearly violates the Spill Act because it requires clean-ups to include restoration; however with this deal the NJDEP is not requiring restoration. The settlement also violates the Spill Act because it would not require Morses Creek to have a clean-up in a timely fashion. The Spill Act requires quick clean-ups because otherwise it could be postponed indefinitely. The lack-of-a clean-up will allow discharge to continue into Morses Creek, which violates surface water standards. In addition, the settlement denies the public right to comment on the 15 additional sites added to the case, which also violates the Spill Act. The settlement breaks Public Trust Doctrine because natural resources damaged in the case belong to all of us. These are the major points why Exxon and the DEP do not want us involved.”

 

“Today, we were able to get on the record why the judge should block this settlement and force Exxon and DEP to go back to the drawing board. If he doesn’t do it today, we have on the record the grounds for our appeal. We are disappointed with the Judge’s decision not to issue a stay, but it is not unexpected because he didn’t allow us to intervene in the first place. We hoped he would hold the case until the decision of the Appellate Court was made, but our appeal still goes forward. The judge said today he will make his decision in about a month. We believe that the Judge should have allowed us to intervene and the Appellate Division will. By intervening, we can bring in new information to the judge and try to block this settlement. We believe that there is information that still needs to be put on the record, not only about the Bayway and Linden refineries, but also about the 16 other sites and 800 gas stations. The record on the settlement is incomplete. We need to restore 1,500 acres of wetlands; not just cap them and pave them over. We will continue our fight to prevent the settlement from going forward and try to represent the public’s interest since the DEP will not. We are down but not out; we will continue to fight this sellout.”

In court today, it came out that out of the $225 million settlement: $50 million would go towards legal feesThat means no monies will go to restoration or the environment and $175 million will go to the General Fund. That’s why this deal is a sellout.”

“This is a complete sellout to New Jersey taxpayers and the environment. We need to represent the citizens of the state as well as the environment since DEP no longer does. The DEP is more interested in protecting Exxon than protecting the environment. They should stand for the ‘Department of Exxon Protection.’ When you sell out the public and let the polluters off the hook, it sends a message that you can get away with anything in the Christie Administration. We are going to keep fighting and take our motion to intervene to the Appellate Court. The people of New Jersey deserve.”

“The DEP and Exxon do not want us to intervene because it will bring in transparency and openness to the process and show that this deal is a sham. We can bring in information about why the settlement hurts the environment and costs taxpayers money as well as expert reports to show that Exxon is getting left off the hook. DEP and Exxon are working together to keep us out of the case because they don’t want the facts to be given to the judge nor do they want this sellout to be exposed. DEP is clearly more concerned about protecting Exxon than the people of New Jersey. What DEP is doing is disgraceful because they are a governmental agency who is supposed to support the people and the environment and uphold the public trust. The DEP does not want the public to be involved or understand why this is such a bad deal. They want to do this dirty deal behind closed doors.”

“The Christie Administration said we didn’t need to intervene because we have not exhausted our right to public comment. The DEP’s response to comments is part of the lies and misinformation they have been spreading all along; they have ignored what people had to say. We hope the judge reads the comments and the information we brought to Court today and sees through DEP’s spin. One of the reasons we want to intervene is so those comments will not only be included in the record, but the judge will understand how important they are. This is the biggest corporate giveaway in state history and Exxon and the DEP doesn’t want us to represent the public. The DEP now stands for the ‘Department of Exxon Protection.’ We wanted to see the money go where it belonged: to the people and communities who have been impacted by Exxon’s pollution.”

“The DEP is not telling the truth about the information they have and the court should realize that they aren’t being truthful. They have information in DEP files on the 16 sites as well as the 800 gas stations. We have DEP documents showing that the DEP has substantial information on many of these sites. They’ve been deliberately withholding that information. We want to enter the case so we can force the DEP to release that information. They don’t want the public to know just how dirty this deal is and do not want this information brought to the Judge. They want to sell out to Exxon instead of fighting for what the people deserve. They’ve been misleading the public and the court as well.”

“Each time you look the deal gets worse and worse. This is the biggest corporate tax subsidy in state history. This settlement is costing the taxpayers billions of dollars and leaving hazardous contaminants in New Jersey. Instead of protecting the environment, the Christie Administration wants to protect Exxon. We need to represent the citizens of the state as well as the environment since DEP no longer does. When you sell out the public and let the polluters off the hook, it sends a message that you can get away with anything in the Christie Administration. We are going to keep fighting and take our motion to intervene to the Appellate Court. The people of New Jersey deserve it since the DEP has sided with polluters over the public.”