NJ Senate criticizing $225 million Exxon deal over pollution

New Jersey’s Senate has passed a resolution urging a judge to reject the Christie administration’s $225 million settlement to resolve Exxon Mobil’s liability over pollution at two refinery sites.

Senate Democrats criticized the deal, claiming it’s inappropriate and inadequate.

But Sen. Kevin O’Toole urged his fellow Republicans to abstain from voting.

He says having lawmakers interfere with a judge handling an ongoing case violates the independent judiciary, said O’Toole of Essex County.

“All legislators are cautioned not to contact the judicial branch seeking specific redress on ongoing matters,” he said Monday. “Are we potentially exposing ourselves to an ethics violation or possible remand by voting for this resolution?”

Another concern, said Sen. Gerry Cardinale, R-Bergen, is that about $45 million of the proposed settlement might go to lawyers. He says a better recommendation would be to cap the legal fees that can be charged in environmental cleanup cases.

Sen. Ray Lesniak is adamant that Exxon should have to pay more to make up for the pollution that’s destroyed natural habitat in wetlands.

“This quality of life cannot be restored, and its loss cannot be compensated for three cents on the dollar,” said Lesniak, D-Union.

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