Something really stinks in New Jersey.
A former top EPA official is blasting Gov. Chris Christie for signing off on a $225 million deal to settle a decade-old lawsuit against ExxonMobil for widespread pollution.
The state had already won the case — a court found that the oil giant had, in fact, wreaked major environmental havoc on the state with its refineries and service stations.
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Experts estimated the damage to be $8.9 billion. The court was deliberating just how much to fine the company when Christie’s team announced the $225 million settlement earlier this week.
Bradley Campbell, a lawyer and the state’s former environmental chief who in 2004 launched the suit, was flabbergasted.
“The decision by the administration of Gov. Chris Christie to settle an environmental lawsuit against ExxonMobil Corporation for roughly three cents on the dollar after more than a decade of litigation is an embarrassment to law enforcement and good government,” Campbell wrote in in a Times OpEd headlined "Shortchanging New Jersey by Billions.”
Campbell, who from 1999 to 2001 headed up the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s mid-Atlantic division suggested politics are behind the move and notes Christie is actively considering a White House run.
“While he was chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2014, the group received $500,000 from Exxon and more from company employees. While this was not Exxon’s first contribution to the group, this donation was made at a time when the New Jersey trial was pending,” he wrote Thursday.
Democrats are now vowing to hold hearings March 19 to probe the deal and some critics suggest the deal was struck to get money into the economically-struggling state’s coffers to shore up Christie’s national ambitions.
Jersey’s acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin, note that the payout wouldn’t come until 2016.
Martin also notes that the settlement is the biggest with a corporate defendant state history.