Exxon Mobil Corp’s $225 million settlement with New Jersey over a longstanding environmental pollution case won approval Tuesday from a state judge.
Judge Michael Hogan of the State Superior Court called the settlement a “reasonable compromise given the substantial litigation risks” for the state at trial and on appeal, although the payout was not even 3 percent of the $8.9 billion in damages sought.
New Jersey wanted to hold Exxon responsible for decades of natural resources contamination stemming from its refinery operations in Bayonne and Linden, as well as other facilities, including more than 1,700 gas stations.
It said this included damage that turned more than 1,500 acres of wetlands and marshes into toxic wastelands.
The state has called Exxon’s payout the second-largest for natural resources damages from a single company in U.S. history.
In his 81-page decision, Hogan called the settlement fair, reasonable and in the public interest, saying it ensured the prompt cleanup of hazardous substances without the need to spend more taxpayer money on litigation.
The judge also noted the controversy where environmentalists were calling the deal a sellout.
“Nearly any consent decree can be viewed simultaneously as a crackdown or a sellout,” he wrote. “This quote rings especially true for the settlement that this court has been tasked with reviewing.”
Alan Jeffers, a spokesman for Irving, Texas-based Exxon, called the accord a “fair and reasonable conclusion” that offers “certainty and finality.”
Acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman said the state can still pursue some claims against Exxon, including damages to the Arthur Kill, Newark Bay and other surface waters.