There is a controversy out of New Jersey which continues to get more interesting by the day, according to MSNBC. Years ago, after decades of misuse, Exxon had damaged more than 1,500 acres of wetlands in northern New Jersey.
The state of New Jersey filed an $8.9 billion lawsuit about a decade ago. The case progressed in the state’s favor — Exxon’s culpability was finally effectively decided. The only remaining question was how much the oil giant would pay in damages.
Last week, however, New Jersey settled the case.
Why? After seeking $8.9 billion — $2.6 billion for environmental restoration and $6.3 billion for compensatory damages — the state agreed to accept just $250 million. That’s roughly 3% of the original amount. Most of that total would go towards closing the governor’s budget shortfall, rather than environmental repair.
New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D) said to MSNBC, “We want to find out who engineered this. Was it the attorney general’s office? Was it [the state’s Department of Environmental Protection] or was it maybe someone in the governor’s office?”
The New York Times seeks to answer that question as well:
“For more than a decade, the New Jersey attorney general’s office conducted a hard-fought legal battle to hold Exxon Mobil Corporation responsible for decades of environmental contamination in northern New Jersey.
“But when the news came that the state had reached a deal to settle its $8.9 billion claim for about $250 million, the driving force behind the settlement was not the attorney general’s office — it was Gov. Chris Christie’s chief counsel, Christopher S. Porrino, two people familiar with the negotiations said.”
Christie’s chief counsel “inserted himself into the case, elbowed aside the attorney general and career employees who had developed and prosecuted the litigation, and cut the deal favorable to Exxon,” according to Bradley Campbell, the commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection.