In 2017, New Jersey voters will decide if the governor and state lawmakers can balance the budget by raiding environmental settlements.
The measure, ACR127, “Amends Constitution to dedicate all State moneys received from settlements and awards in cases of environmental contamination relating to natural resource damages for certain environmental purposes”. The Resolution was prompted by outrage over the Christie administration's settlement with Exxon Mobil in a decade-long lawsuit over refinery pollution.
In that settlement, experts from Exxon Mobil testified that environmental damages alone would require $8.9 billion to remediate. Instead, Christie settled for $225 million, about two and a half percent of the amount needed for cleanup. The settlement was announced in May 2015, while Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, was CEO of Exxon Mobil.
But the outrage didn’t stop there. Of the $225 million, only $50 million went to the actual cleanup effort. $50.1 million went to the State’s law firm. Christie used the rest to help plug the State’s budget deficit.
The proposed amendment would keep future settlement money from being shamefully used as a check against reckless State budgets.
The resolution passed the State Senate 28-8. Sussex County’s State Senator Steve Oroho voted against it. The resolution passed the State Assembly 56-18. Assemblymen Parker Space and Gail Phoebus both voted against the measure.
The SCDC has requested a comment from the three representatives explaining their vote.