A New Jersey judge has just approved a controversial settlement proposed by Exxon Mobil in an environmental lawsuit filed by the state government. The lawsuit claimed that Exxon Mobil was responsible for decades of sustained environmental damage in New Jersey, and originally sought $8.9 billion in damages. A settlement reached in March, however, cut that number down to $225 million set for site remediation.
New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan said the agreement was a reasonable compromise, but a large number of environmental groups have tried blocking the deal, claiming that Republican governor Chris Christie, currently a presidential candidate, poorly negotiated the settlement.
"This is a multibillion-dollar gift to Exxon Mobil from Gov. Christie and his administration, at the expense of New Jersey residents," says Margaret Brown, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "After a decade long court battle, this spring the Christie administration abruptly and inexplicably gave the oil giant a more than 98 percent discount on the damages due for its destruction."
A number of environmental groups have previously tried entering as a third party, but a New Jersey judge denied their motion to intervene in July.
Officials have claimed that this settlement money is in addition to an undisclosed cost the oil company is also paying for damaged natural resources. International Business Times previously revealed that Exxon Mobil has donated over $1.9 million to the Republican Governors Association, which Christie previously chaired, since he first ran for governor. The group in question has also helped finance Christie's campaigns, making his position in the negotiations questionable.
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