State Wins Round In ExxonMobil Lawsuit

TRENTON—A Superior Court judge upheld the state’s claims seeking damages from ExxonMobil for harm to the environment and loss of natural resources caused by its refinery operations in Linden and Bayonne, Attorney General Anne Milgram announced earlier this month.

Superior Court Judge Ross R. Anzaldi rejected a motion by ExxonMobil to dismiss the state’s claims on grounds that the state should only be able to seek restoration of, and compensation for, natural resources damaged after enactment of the Spill Act in 1977, Milgram said.

“This is a significant ruling, because it affirms the state’s position that polluters who have damaged natural resources prior to passage of the Spill Act cannot simply walk away—they have an obligation to restore those natural resources, and to compensate the people of New Jersey for losses while the resources were polluted,” said Milgram.

In September 2008, Anzaldi ruled that ExxonMobil is liable for causing a public nuisance by polluting the waterways, wetlands and marshes on and near its former refinery sites in Bayonne and Linden.

In ruling on part of a natural resource damages lawsuit filed on behalf of the DEP, the judge found that ExxonMobil contaminated both sites through active disposal and accidental spilling of hazardous substances causing great damage.

The judge also found that a formerly-ExxonMobil-owned refinery in Linden known as Bayway discharged hazardous materials into Morses Creek for years under ExxonMobil’s stewardship. The discharges resulted in extensive hydrocarbon contamination of both Morses Creek and the Arthur Kill, into which the creek flows. The court also found that former wetlands areas on and near the Linden site were contaminated with petroleum distillate residues. (Bayway refinery is currently owned and operated by Conoco Phillips.)

Although ExxonMobil is involved in remediating the Bayonne and Linden sites under a 1991 Administrative Consent Order, the DEP filed its current lawsuit to require ExxonMobil to restore some of the on-site natural resources it damaged and destroyed, and to compensate the public for loss of the natural resources from the time pollution began until those resources are restored.

The specific amount of money owed by ExxonMobil will be determined at trial.

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