Bill Comes Amid Exxon Mobil Settlement Questions;
Would Extend Required Public Notice from 30 to 60 Days
(TRENTON) – Assemblyman John McKeon on Friday announced he’ll be introducing legislation to increase required public notice from 30 days to 60 days for settlements entered into by the state pursuant to Spill Compensation and Control Act.
If signed into law in time, the bill would, for instance, extend the public notice period for the Christie administration’s $225 million settlement with Exxon Mobil Corporation.
The lawsuit was filed over contamination and the loss of use of more than 1,500 acres of wetlands, marshes, meadows and waters in North Jersey – for $225 million, although Exxon Mobil’s liability was no longer in dispute and the state initially sought $8.9 billion in the suit filed in 2004.
“The many concerns surrounding the Exxon Mobil settlement make it a glaring example of why the public notice timeframe needs changing,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris), who as Assembly Judiciary Committee chairman will host a Thursday hearing into the settlement. “The questionable size of the settlement, the extent of the damage and the length of time involved with this litigation makes a 30-day public notice period inadequate. More time is appropriate for this – and all future settlements.”
State law requires the Department of Environmental Protection to provide at least 30 days public notice before agreeing to an administrative or judicially approved settlement under the Spill Compensation and Control Act.
This notice is to be published in the New Jersey Register and on the department’s website, and is to include the name of the case, 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.
McKeon’s bill would increase this timeframe for public notice from at least 30 days to at least 60 days before the department agreeing to the settlement.
“The public deserves a reasonable amount of time to study and comment on pollution settlements,” McKeon said. “These settlements directly impact their quality of life, and as we see in the Exxon Mobil case, they can raise numerous questions and concerns. Providing extra time to review these agreements is a simple step that would benefit everyone.”