Law stems from Exxon dispute over $225 million settlement,Despite asking for $8.9 billion in damages
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Annette Quijano and Gary Schaer to better inform the public about environmental settlements being considered by the state was signed into law on Wednesday.
“The many concerns surrounding the Exxon Mobil settlement made a glaring example of why the public notice timeframe needs changing,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “The questionable size of the settlement, the extent of the damage and the length of time involved with this litigation make a 30-day public notice period inadequate. The law will now provide more time for this and all future settlements.”
The new law (A-4307) requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to provide at least 60 days public notice prior to entering into a settlement pursuant to the Spill Compensation and Control Act. Previous law requires the DEP to provide at least 30 days public notice prior to agreeing to an administrative or judicially approved settlement.
“This new law will give the public ample time to digest this information and voice any concerns they may have about the terms of environmental settlements being eyed by the state, especially when the benefits of the settlement don’t add up,” said Quijano (D-Union).
The legislation was proposed in response to the decision to settle with Exxon Mobil for a fraction of what the state 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.
“Considering the great magnitude of the Exxon Mobil settlement, to think that 30 days was sufficient time for the public to review, comprehend and produce a well-informed opinion on the matter simply is ludicrous,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Extending the public notice requirement to 60 days will do much in the way of increasing transparency and fostering more productive public engagement.”
Public notices are published in the New Jersey Register and on the department’s website and include the name of the case, the names of the parties to the settlement, the location of the property on which the discharge occurred and a summary of the terms of the settlement, including the amount of any monetary payments made or to be made.
The new law will take effect immediately.
The Assembly approved the legislation in March; and the Senate approved the bill in October.