A senior judge has approved the settlement of a long-running legal dispute between the state of New Jersey and Exxon Mobil Corp, with the state accepting damages of around 3% of the sum originally claimed.
The claim was filed in 2004 seeking $8.9bn compensation for damage to natural resources caused by Exxon oil refineries and petrochemical plants. As reported by Bloomberg, Judge Michael Hogan approved a $225m settlement deal this week.
New Jersey mayor Chris Christie has been criticized for accepting such a low settlement of the claim. However, Judge Hogan ruled that the deal was lawful and in the public interest.
He said: “Although far smaller than the estimated $8.9bn in damages, Exxon’s payment represents a reasonable compromise given the substantial litigation risks the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) faced at trial and would face on appeal.”
The settlement covers compensation for pollution around petrochemical plants and oil refineries in the cities of Bayonne and Linden, dozens of other smaller sites around the state and 1,768 retail gas stations. Exxon and New Jersey have been seeking to settle the claim since 2007.
In addition to this settlement for natural resource damage, Exxon remains liable for clean ups of 1,600 acres of polluted land under a 1991 agreement. The cost of this decontamination had reached $260m in 2014.
Critics have vowed to appeal the decision. The DEP received 16,000 comments on the deal, most of which were negative.