ASSEMBLY CONCURRENT RESOLUTION No. 226

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

216th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED MARCH 19, 2015

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman  TIM EUSTACE

District 38 (Bergen and Passaic)

Assemblywoman  ELIZABETH MAHER MUOIO

District 15 (Hunterdon and Mercer)

Assemblywoman  VALERIE VAINIERI HUTTLE

District 37 (Bergen)

Assemblywoman  SHAVONDA E. SUMTER

District 35 (Bergen and Passaic)

Assemblyman  JAMEL C. HOLLEY

District 20 (Union)

Assemblywoman  ANNETTE QUIJANO

District 20 (Union)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman Jasey and Assemblyman Singleton

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Condemns, and strongly urges rejection of, proposed $225 million settlement in lawsuit brought by NJ against Exxon Mobil for natural resource damages at Bayway and Bayonne oil refinery sites and certain other sites in NJ.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


A Concurrent Resolution condemning, and strongly urging rejection of, the proposed $225 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by the State against Exxon Mobil for natural resource damages caused by pollution at the Bayway and Bayonne oil refinery sites and at certain other Exxon Mobil sites in New Jersey.

 

Whereas, Since 2004 the State of New Jersey has sought compensation from Exxon Mobil Corporation (Exxon) for the contamination and loss of use of more than 1,500 acres of wetlands, marshes, meadows, and waters in northern New Jersey; and

Whereas, The contamination took place during much of the 20th century, when Exxon and its predecessors operated oil refineries and related facilities in Linden (the “Bayway site”) and Bayonne, New Jersey (the “Bayonne site”); and

Whereas, During the course of operations at these facilities, crude oil and refined products, containing hazardous substances such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), chromium, and arsenic, were lost through improper disposal of wastes, spills, and leaks; and

Whereas, For instance, in 1977 alone, at least seven million gallons of oil were released into the soil and groundwater underlying a portion of the Bayonne site; and

Whereas, The level of contamination in the waters and sediment of the Platty Kill Canal in Bayonne is so high that Exxon recommended permanently closing and filling the canal with an impermeable barrier; and

Whereas, In Linden, a former wetlands known as the Pitch/Mudflat Area was described by one Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) official in 2005 as “tar flats,” and Morses Creek has experienced a “gelatinous, oily emulsion overlying gray silt”; and

Whereas, The State’s own experts have estimated that cleanup and restoration of former wetlands, meadows, forests, and intertidal habitat, and compensation for decades of contamination at the Bayway and Bayonne sites would cost $8.9 billion; and

Whereas, The State has indicated in court documents that “[t]he scope of the environmental damage resulting from the discharges is as obvious as it is staggering and unprecedented in New Jersey”; and

Whereas, In 2004, the DEP filed suit against Exxon, under the “Spill Compensation and Control Act” (“Spill Act”), to recover money damages to compensate the State for the loss, loss of use, and restoration of natural resources at the sites; and

Whereas, Last year, after nearly a decade of litigation, and with Exxon’s liability no longer in dispute, the State Attorney General went to trial seeking damages, including $2.6 billion for primary restoration of the Bayway and Bayonne sites and $6.3 billion for compensatory or “loss of use” damages; and

Whereas, Although the judge in the case was expected to be close to a decision, the Christie Administration twice petitioned the Court to delay its ruling because the State was in the process of negotiating a settlement agreement with Exxon; and

Whereas, In March 2015, it was reported that the Christie Administration had reached a proposed settlement agreement with Exxon for $225 million in natural resource damages – far less than what is required to compensate the State for damaged and lost natural resources; and

Whereas, Under the Spill Act, the DEP must publish information about the proposed settlement in the New Jersey Register and on the DEP’s website for public inspection and comment; and

Whereas, After considering all public comments it receives, the DEP can decide to withdraw from the proposed settlement agreement if comments disclose facts or considerations which show that the agreement is inappropriate, improper, or inadequate; and

Whereas, The proposed $225 million settlement agreement is grossly inappropriate, improper, and inadequate because it fails to address the decades-long contamination of important ecological resources surrounding major metropolitan areas, and does not fairly compensate the State and the public for that contamination; and

Whereas, The Christie Administration has not fully disclosed the rationale for settling the case for approximately three cents on the dollar, and thus has exhibited a notable lack of candor to the public; and

Whereas, The Governor has a duty to protect the natural resources of the State, which are held in trust by the State for the people, and, consequently, must ensure that the proposed settlement agreement is withdrawn, and that the State obtains the maximum compensation possible from Exxon; now, therefore,

 

     Be It Resolved by the General Assembly of the State of New Jersey (the Senate concurring):

 

     1.    This House condemns, and strongly urges rejection of, the proposed $225 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by the State against Exxon Mobil for natural resource damages caused by pollution at the Bayway and Bayonne oil refinery sites and at certain other Exxon Mobil sites in New Jersey, because it is grossly inappropriate, improper, and inadequate and violates the public trust.

 

     2.    The Court presiding over the case of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection v. Exxon Mobil Corporation is respectfully urged to reject the proposed $225 million settlement agreement between the parties because the agreement shocks the conscience in light of undisputed evidence of significant damage to, and loss of, the State’s natural resources caused by pollution at the Bayway and Bayonne oil refinery sites and at certain other Exxon Mobil sites in New Jersey.

 

     3.    The New Jersey Attorney General and the Commissioner of Environmental Protection are urged to withdraw immediately from the proposed $225 million settlement agreement because it is grossly inappropriate, improper, and inadequate.

 

     4.    The Governor is respectfully urged to take all appropriate action to fully protect the public trust resources of this State, ensure that the proposed $225 million settlement agreement between the State and Exxon Mobil is not finalized and is withdrawn, and direct the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Environmental Protection to obtain the maximum compensation possible from Exxon Mobil for the devastating environmental damage incurred at the Bayway and Bayonne oil refinery sites and at certain other Exxon Mobil sites in New Jersey.

 

     5.    Copies of this resolution, as filed with the Secretary of State, shall be transmitted by the Clerk of the General Assembly or the Secretary of the Senate to the Superior Court judge presiding over the case of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Commissioner of Environmental Protection.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This concurrent resolution would condemn, and strongly urge rejection of, the proposed $225 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by the State against Exxon Mobil (“Exxon”) for natural resource damages caused by pollution at the Bayway and Bayonne oil refinery sites and at certain other Exxon sites in New Jersey, because it is grossly inappropriate, improper, and inadequate and violates the public trust.

     For much of the 20th century, Exxon and its predecessors operated oil refineries and related facilities in Linden (the “Bayway site”) and Bayonne, New Jersey (the “Bayonne site”).  During the course of operations at these facilities, crude oil and refined products, containing hazardous substances, were lost through improper disposal of waste, spills, and leaks, damaging wetlands, marshes, meadows, and waters in and around the sites.  The State’s own experts have estimated that cleanup and restoration of the former wetlands and other areas, and compensation for decades of contamination at the Bayway and Bayonne sites, would cost $8.9 billion. 

     In 2004, the Department of Environmental Protection filed suit against Exxon to recover money damages to compensate the State for the loss, loss of use, and restoration of natural resources at the sites.  Last year, after nearly a decade of litigation, and with Exxon’s liability no longer in dispute, the State Attorney General went to trial seeking billions of dollars in damages.  Although the judge in the case was expected to be close to a decision, the Christie Administration twice petitioned the court to delay its ruling, and soon thereafter, reportedly reached a $225 million settlement with Exxon – far less than what is required to compensate the State for damaged and lost natural resources.

     The proposed settlement agreement is grossly inappropriate, improper, and inadequate, because it fails to address decades-long contamination of important ecological resources surrounding major metropolitan areas, and does not fairly compensate the State and the public for that contamination.  The Governor has a duty to protect the natural resources of the State, which are held in trust by the State for the people, and, consequently, must ensure that the proposed settlement is withdrawn, and that the State obtains the maximum compensation possible from Exxon.  Consequently, this concurrent resolution strongly urges the rejection of the proposed settlement agreement.