Tag Archive: Exxon

Environmental Kumbaya (Almost)

New Jersey Senate Energy and Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith noted today that on the environment, there should be no disagreements. Of course, we know that this is not the case with our current governor who puts the interests of his dirty energy donors ahead of clean air and water for New Jerseyans.

Several bills and resolutions were heard at Smith’s committee this morning. All but one passed with unanimous, bipartisan support. There was universal agreement on technical items related to the Environmental Infrastructure Trust (low-interest loans for certain projects), and the installation of automobile charging stations at rest areas on New Jersey’s major tollways.

The capstone of today’s meeting was SCR-163, a proposed amendment to the New Jersey Constitution to “dedicate all State moneys received from settlements and awards in cases of environmental contamination for certain environmental purposes.”

Today at the State House: Rally & lobbying against Chris Christie’s Exxon giveaway

Rally Against NJ Exxon Settlement

Today at State House: Rally against the Exxon giveaway

Thousands of postcards from NJ residents are being  delivered to the NJDEP today, calling for rejection of the Christie administration’s $225M settlement for polluting New Jersey. About 3¢ on the dollar for a 10-year lawsuit filed for $8.9B.

Rallying on the Statehouse steps are reps from NJ Sierra Club, NJ Citizen Action, Environment NJ, NY/NJ Baykeeper, Food and Water Watch, NJ Clean Water Action. They’re joined by assemblymen John McKeon and Carmelo Garcia, and Sen. Ray Lesniak. At a public hearing Wednesday, Lesniak testified that his read of the settlement language may allow Exxon to write off that $225M as a business expense. That would reduce Exxon’s cost, and shift the difference to taxpayers. Lesniak cites the word “alleged” in the language, which Exxon may use to distance itself from liability – enough to seek a state and federal tax break. Yesterday’s hearing was in Bayonne, one of the towns damaged by years of Exxon contamination. Everything about this deal stinks, including how it came about and the highly unusual way Chris Christie’s chief counsel inserted himself into the case. (Read Brad Campbell, former commissioner of the NJDEP).

Advocates are also inside the State House lobbying for SCR163 (Smith)/ACR230 (McKeon), which would constitutionally dedicate monies received by the state in Natural Resource Damage litigation That’s intended to stop the administration from raiding those funds to close budget holes. (see The Cost of Budget Raids)

Public comment period ends tomorrow. You still have time to register your comment. Here are 2 ways: (1) Use this Sierra Club form (2) Or, email directly to: ExxonMobilBaywaySettlement@dep.nj.gov

Paulsboro’s Double Trouble

In November, 2012, a Conrail train fell off a bridge in Paulsboro, spilling thousands of gallons of toxic vinyl chloride into Mantua Creek and fumes throughout the surrounding area. At the time, first responders were on the scene without protective gear, and children walked home from school in the toxic cloud. Several lawsuits are pending as a result of that debacle.

Now, Paulsboro is being hit again. Recently, Governor Christie pre-empted an $8.9 billion lawsuit that primarily was concerned with Exxon refineries in North Jersey and unilaterally decided to settle for less than 3 cents on the dollar, leaving taxpayers with the burden to remediate those sites. Adding insult to injury, his administration lumped the Paulsboro refinery and several other polluted sites around the state within the same bounds of that settlement.

Today, a group of environmental activists and Paulsboro citizens gathered next to the Exxon site there to protest the governor’s actions.

Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network explains in the video below. Additional remarks by activists and residents are below the fold:

Why Chris Christie Deserves the Nero Award

Cross posted from my blog at Epoch Times  

The Exxon Deal

Like many New Jersey residents, I was appalled to find out that  Gov. Chris Christie’s Administration interfered in the Exxon pollution lawsuit and prevented what would have been an incredible windfall for New Jersey, by cutting a secretive deal that would not even cover the costs of the gigantic cleanup that was at the heart of the $8.9 Billion court case.

So Many Questions

Did the Governor do it to pay back Exxon for donating half a million dollars to the Republican Governors Association which helped Christie, then head of the RGA?

Did he do it to bolster his boast in Iowa a week later that he spent the last five years dismantling the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection?

Did he do it to protect his claim to the Nero Award, an award I just invented for leaders so narcissistic that they basically fiddle while their state burns down financially, or gets poisoned by the Emperor’s friends?

Did he do it because he needs an enemy and if the Pension problem goes away because NJ just got enough of a windfall to pay for that, he won’t have a union to fight to make himself look better than Scott Walker?

Did he do it because of what Naomi Klein dubbed the Shock Doctrine? Would a large award have interfered with Christie bringing NJ to its knees so that we would blame any scapegoat he threw at us – teachers, cops, firefighters, or environmental regulations, and allow him to do anything that he promised would help us, like more tax cuts for donors to his presidential campaign?

Did the Governor, for short term and short-sighted gain only, settle at 3 cents on the dollar because he just wanted to avoid raising taxes so he could brag about that – the very same reason he soaked every commuter traveling across the GWB for tolls rather than raise taxes to fund our empty Transportation Trust Fund?

Did he do it just because it was other people’s money, and like he always orders the most expensive steak or chooses a five star hotel on someone else’s dime, or brings his entire family along when he gets a free trip somewhere on a private jet, or spends $82,000 on snacks at football games, he didn’t care.

Did he do it simply, like when he killed the ARC tunnel after years of planning by others, so he could raid that pile of money to plug holes in the budget? (I can’t help but think Christie, enamored of private jet travel, didn’t mind killing mass transit because East Coast City Dwellers who tend to vote Democrat appear to prefer trains to the pickup trucks of rural Iowa voters.)

Did he look at the short term settlement the same way he views the hard earned pennies saved by NJ state workers who dutifully paid parts of their salaries into the pension system – as a pile of money he can steal for other purposes at the very same time he insults those very same workers whose sweat he is profiting off of by handing over millions of fees to his hedge fund donors?

Did he do it because he loves pollution caused by the energy industry? NJ certainly won’t be able to clean up the mess Exxon left with the paltry settlement that Christie plans to raid for other purposes. After all, he had the law changed to allow said raid and the settlement includes other contaminated sites throughout the state.

Did he do it because offering prime publicly owned real estate like Liberty State Park to private interests can only be done if NJ is short on cash?

Did he do it just to appeal to the Republican base, like he did when turning down Federal matching funds for women’s health care? Or to appeal to his donors?

Or was it all of the above?

I am starting to see a pattern here, and I don’t like it.

More below:

Too Big to Sue?

After the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection proposed an eight-billion dollar lawsuit based on Exxon’s despoiling of numerous sites in New Jersey, the Christie administration is pushing through a $225 million settlement – less than three cents on the dollar – ending any future remediation or consideration for Exxon’s pollution.

Today, Assemblyman John McKeon, chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, held a hearing to gather facts to try to determine if this settlement is in the best interests of the public.

While such a low cash settlement without much public discussion may seem odd, it makes sense if you look at it through the lens of Governor Christie’s political aspirations. Settling for the low number now, and channeling most of that money into the general fund,  provides Christie with another one-shot gimmick to enable him to boast of a balanced budget, even though that goal is constitutionally required. Waiting for prolonged litigation to force Exxon to pay its fair share would not help Christie, who will be long out of office by the time the lawsuits are settled.

New Jersey’s Department of Exxon Protection

On the surface, today’s New Jersey Assembly Budget Committee hearing on the Department of Environmental Protection seemed boring and unproductive, even by Trenton Standards. NJ DEP Commissioner Bob Martin refused to answer questions about the Exxon giveaway settlement but did spout out a lot of statistics about specific remediation projects, allocation of money, and the high-level plans for the Department.

Questions from panel members included the status of in-district projects and where some of the funds are going, but Martin referred any questions on the Exxon deal to the Attorney General and the Treasurer.

It’s no secret that Chris Christie has been hostile to the environment throughout his reign, so the comments from Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club Director, should come as no surprise.

Avoiding the Next Exxon Giveaway

Even as Governor Christie’s Exxon giveaway is being scrutinized during a 60-day public comment period, there’s another potential taxpayer cleanup liability looming.

The Exxon sites are not alone, nor are they the most complex cleanup tasks facing New Jersey.

The Oyster Creek nuclear plant in Lacey Township is scheduled to close in 2019. It will leave behind the detritus of spent nuclear fuel, contaminated ground soil, and other residual chemical pollution that will plague the Ocean County town for years to come, even with the best-financed and well-executed planning.

Christie’s currently-proposed Exxon settlement for a small fraction of the cleanup costs makes sense when viewed through his lens of presidential ambition. Any amount of settlement money that goes to the general fund, no matter how small, helps Christie in his claim that he is balancing the budget. This is not his first one-shot gimmick that he will be using toward this end, and probably not the last. The real cost of the Exxon cleanup will come years after Christie is out of office and will be left to future taxpayers.

Watch NJTV’s video & decide for yourself: Does Christie’s “town hall” schtick still work?

NJTV makes some of their news coverage embeddable, which is good, and reporter David Cruz filed this video of Gov. Christie’s “town hall” yesterday in Kenilworth.

Mr. Cruz appears to make the same point I did about this event, though in a more even-handed way that I did. I pointed out that, particularly when confronted with the teacher with Exxon settlement questions, Christie’s schtick of evading the question by humiliating the person daring to ask it isn’t working for him anymore. The teacher, surely having seen his schtick before, calmly says, “I’m not here to be bullied.” After he tries to bully her some more, he finally answers the question (not well).  Mr. Cruz points out Christie still gets the same standing-O he’s used to, but is like the crooner who has to sing the same song over and over … just to sell some albums. Some things still work; he still runs these things in daytime when most people are working, which helps guarantee an audience that still responds with more appreciation than polls indicate New Jerseyans actually have.

Some context is needed regarding the outburst from Newark students, most of which regular readers already know, but I’ll remind you. Gov. Christie’s big initiative in Newark is his hand-picked agent sent to dismantle and privatize public education. Cami Anderson has been a disorganized, disrespectful disaster there, and student protests against her plans are national news. A hot potato for a guy with White House dreams. And if you think that the jarring whistle and calls of “Arrest Christie!” (below) are rude, I would remind you that the Governor’s response was no less rude when he was asked respectfully almost a year ago to bring a “town hall” to Newark so people could talk to him.

NJTV’s video on the jump page.  

NJ Senate resolution passes condemning Gov. Christie’s Exxon giveaway

Busy, hot-blooded day in the New Jersey Senate today.

With Christie’s man in the NJ Senate Kevin O’Toole gyrating however he could to stop it, the NJ Senate approved a resolution a few minutes ago condemning Gov. Christie’s “giveaway” settlement with ExxonMobil after the state invested ten years on legal action pegged at about $9B.  O’Toole’s strenuous efforts were aided by Sen. Tom Kean Jr. who urged abstention, claiming not enough info is known about the settlement.

The resolution is to take the pollution settlement (at the bargain basement price of $225 million on a nearly $9 billion action) to a judge and ask that it be thrown out.

The resolution was 24 Yes, 0 No.  

NJ Court Rules Exxon can’t limit damages

Frank Brill over at EnviroPolitics sent out a tweet about the news of a loss for Exxon in NJ Superior Court in their effort to limit damages for harming natural resources at two refinery sites in Elizabeth and Bayonne. Here’s the background:

In 2007, the Appellate Division held that the state Department of Environmental Protection had authority under the state Spill Act to seek damages for the loss of use of natural resources adversely affected by the discharge of hazardous substances.

ExxonMobil claimed that the law defines “natural resources” as land owned, managed, held in trust or otherwise controlled by the state.

Exxon tried to argue that their land was not classified as “natural resoures” and also tried to say that that no other NJ court had ruled that the Public Trust Doctrine would apply. But the court rejected Exxon’s arguments:

But in his July 24 decision, Judge Ross Anzaldi wrote: “This court will continue to read the Public Trust Doctrine expansively. Therefore natural resource damages are recoverable under the Spill [and Compensation Control] Act and the Public Trust Doctrine does not bar such recovery.”

The ruling is a clear victory for the DEP.  It appears this is a pretty significant ruling from the court with many implications. Back in 2007, the state sued 120 companies and expected to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental resource damages. Exxon was one of those companies and doesn’t seem pleased at all with the court ruling:

A company spokeswoman, Kristin Hellmer, issued a statement that said it disagrees with Anzaldi’s holding “that the state holds a ‘public trust’ interest in perpetuity in private property it does not own, manage or control. This decision was based on an unprecedented interpretation of the Public Trust Doctrine that departs from more than a century of settled New Jersey law. ExxonMobil believes this decision undermines private property rights within New Jersey and raises serious constitutional issues.”

That would seem to signal that the decision will be appealed by Exxon. You can see the other companies served back in 2007 and their corresponding documents here.