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NJ judge approves Exxon $225 mln cleanup settlement

Exxon Mobil Corp’s controversial $225 million settlement with New Jersey of a longstanding environmental pollution case won approval on Tuesday from a state judge, despite objections from critics who viewed the accord as a sellout.

Judge Michael Hogan of the State Superior Court called the accord a “reasonable compromise” even though the payout was less than 3 percent of the $8.9 billion of damages that New Jersey had estimated.

Environmental critics and Democratic legislators have faulted the administration of Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican running for U.S. president, for entering a lowball settlement rather than pressing ahead with litigation that began in 2004.

New Jersey wanted Exxon to pay damages for decades of contamination from its refinery operations and more than 1,700 gas stations.

The state has been seeking compensation for damage to more than 1,500 acres of wetlands and for the cleanup of refinery sites in Bayonne and Linden.

A trial ran for 66 days last year, but a settlement was reached before Hogan could determine damages.

In his 81-page decision, Hogan said the settlement was in the public interest by ensuring the prompt cleanup of hazardous substances, without the need for more taxpayer money to be spent on litigation.

“Exxon’s payment represents a reasonable compromise given the substantial litigation risks the DEP faced at trial and would face on appeal,” Hogan wrote.

Alan Jeffers, an Exxon spokesman, said the settlement has “brought this case to a fair and reasonable conclusion,” and gives both sides “certainty and finality.”

In related news, Judge approves Exxon Mobil settlement over 2013 Arkansas spill.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay and Dan Grebler)

This article was from Reuters and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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