Judge denies NJ groups’ effort to intervene in Exxon Mobil case

 In January 1990, cleanup workers lay down absorbent sheets to soak up heating oil on bird sanctuary Pralls Island between Linden, New Jersey, and Staten Island, New York. Up to 567,000 gallons of oil leaked from an underwater Exxon pipeline into the Arthur Kill waterway. As New Jersey nears a settlement with Exxon over environmental damage at that site and others, critics argue the proposed $225 million pales in comparison with the $8.9 billion in damages the administration sought at trial last year. (AP file photo)

In January 1990, cleanup workers lay down absorbent sheets to soak up heating oil on bird sanctuary Pralls Island between Linden, New Jersey, and Staten Island, New York. Up to 567,000 gallons of oil leaked from an underwater Exxon pipeline into the Arthur Kill waterway. As New Jersey nears a settlement with Exxon over environmental damage at that site and others, critics argue the proposed $225 million pales in comparison with the $8.9 billion in damages the administration sought at trial last year. (AP file photo)

 A New Jersey judge will not allow environmental groups and a Democratic state senator to intervene in the state’s proposed settlement with Exxon Mobil.

Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan ruled the groups didn’t show that the state’s Department of Environmental Protection failed to represent their interests.

New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel said he is disappointed.

“We wanted to intervene in the case because we felt that DEP has not represented the people of New Jersey or the environment in this court case, that this settlement is the biggest sellout in the state history,” Tittel said. “Whenever the DEP tries to settle a $9 billion case for $225 million, they are not on the side of the people.”

The coalition will continue its battle to try to block the settlement, Tittel said.

“We’re going to look to see if we can appeal the judge’s decision, and we will also file a friend of the court because we want to get more information to the judge on why this settlement is a bad deal for the people of New Jersey,” he said.

The Christie administration defends the agreement, saying Exxon would still be liable for cleanup costs at properties it polluted.

The proposed settlement covers the two North Jersey refineries, 16 industrial sites and hundreds of gas stations around the state.

Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, and the coalition of environmental groups filed motions to intervene in the case, largely because they say $225 million is not enough to restore important salt marsh, marsh creek, and wetland habitats contaminated while Exxon operated South Jersey sites.

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