McKeon Acknowledges DEP for Heeding Assembly’s Recommendation to Extend Public Comment Period on Controversial Exxon Settlement

Assemblyman John F. McKeon on Monday welcomed news that the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Attorney General’s office have heeded the Assembly’s recommendation and extended the public comment period on the controversial Exxon Mobil settlement to 60 days, rather than the 30 days typically prescribed by law.

The Assembly, just two weeks ago, overwhelmingly approved a bill (A-4307) sponsored by McKeon to better inform the public about environmental settlements by requiring the DEP to provide at least 60 days public notice prior to entering into a settlement pursuant to the Spill Compensation and Control Act.

“This is a great victory for the public. The voices of those affected most by this persistent and pervasive pollution deserve to be heard. As we said all along, 30 days was far too little time for the public to absorb the extensive facts surrounding this settlement and respond in a proper manner.

“There are far too many concerns surrounding the Exxon Mobil settlement to rush the approval process. Given the questionable size of the settlement and the extent of the damage – which includes 16 other sites in 11 legislative districts throughout the state – a 30-day public notice period would have been far too inadequate.

“With legislators from both sides of the aisle almost unanimously approving an extension of the public comment period, it’s clear that this was the right thing to do and I’m pleased that the DEP has heeded our advice,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris).

McKeon first introduced the bill in response to Gov. Christie’s decision to settle with Exxon Mobil for a fraction of what the state had originally asked for in damages for contamination and loss of use of more than 1,500 acres of wetlands, marshes, meadows and waters in northern New Jersey.

The following is a link to the proposed settlement, which includes instructions for the public to comment on the last page: http://www.nj.gov/dep/nrr/settlements/exxon-20150406-notice.pdf.