CNBNewsnet | March 8, 2019
TRENTON, NJ --Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today filed a six-count lawsuit against ExxonMobil for contamination found on and around its 12-acre-plus Lail property in Gloucester County. This marks the first Natural Resource Damages (NRD) suit against ExxonMobil since the Christie Administration’s sellout to the company in a 2015 settlement. The suit is the fifth overall NRD case brought against polluters since the beginning of 2018.
“We are pleased to see ExxonMobil finally paying a price after that dirty deal with the Christie Administration. They got off the hook before, and now the state is finally going after them again. New Jersey is finally putting some force back in its enforcement. Many communities are overburdened with pollution, but they don’t have the money to clean it up. Making polluters pay for cleanup through these lawsuits is a step up however polluters should pay to restore these communities too,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “It’s good to see Attorney General Grewal and the Murphy Administration switch sides and go after ExxonMobil after supporting the sellout in the past. It is important to send a message that we are not going to let polluters get away without cleaning up their mess. When there’s a cop on the beat, people are more likely to follow the law.”
Industrial dumping of petroleum products and other hazardous substances at the Lail site in East Greenwich Township and Paulsboro Borough dates back to the 1950s. Resulting discharge of industrial contaminants polluted nearby wetlands and waterways. The property is located in a tidal area of the Delaware Estuary, and it is directly connected to the Mantua Creek, which flows into the Delaware River.
“Enforcement is one of the most important mechanisms of the DEP to make sure our air is clean, water is pure and people don’t get away with dumping toxics into the environment. The Christie Administration failed to pursue NRD settlements as a way to clean-up the environment and bring in revenue. We need the Murphy Administration to continue pursuing more sites and help more communities by making the polluters pay,” said Tittel.
New Jersey’s NRD law is designed to do more than just generate revenue from polluters by also seeking compensation for the damage caused.
“Under New Jersey law these natural resources are held in the public trust. When those resources are damaged by chemical spills or pollution, those responsible do not only have to clean it up, but they must compensate the public for that damage they’ve caused. That’s what the NRD law is designed to do,” said Tittel.
The state settled most of its NRD claims against ExxonMobil as part of the 2015 sellout agreement in which the Christie Administration let ExxonMobil off the hook for restoration costs around the Bayway and Bayonne refineries. The state accepted $250,000 in a case the state was winning while seeking $8.9 billion in damages. The Lail property claim was not included in that deal.
“That deal was a disaster for New Jersey, a total sellout. It not only settled for pennies on the dollar, but also stole the settlement money for other budget uses. The public was so outraged that they overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment to stop the theft of pollution settlement proceeds. ExxonMobil was able to escape responsibility for hundreds of polluted sites across the state. We are pleased to see ExxonMobil finally being held accountable for at least one of its messes,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Enforcement and NRD claims are a strong one-two punch that works as a deterrent. They provide more resources to protect and clean-up our environment and the public health of our citizens, especially those who’ve been victimized.”