Final Settlement in Passaic River Litigation
Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Martin have announced that a Superior Court judge has approved a $190 million settlement with Occidental Chemical Corp. that resolves the company’s liability for contamination of the Passaic River.
Approved by Superior Court Judge Sebastian P. Lombardi on Tuesday, the Occidental settlement is the third and final settlement in the Passaic River litigation, a series of settlements in which the State obtained costs and damages from multiple parties responsible for contaminating the river.
Altogether, the State has recovered a total of $355.4 million from the three Passaic River litigation settlements, over and above the cost of remediation.
“As a result of these three settlements, not only will the Passaic River be cleaned up at no cost to New Jersey taxpayers, but the State also has recovered more than $150 million that it expended over many years of exhaustive legal and environmental effort to clean up the River,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman.
Among other terms, the Occidental settlement calls for $50 million of Occidental’s payment to fund natural resource restoration projects in and around the Newark Bay Complex. A total of $67.4 million from all Passaic River settlements will be dedicated to such projects.
“Cleaning up the lower Passaic River is a top environmental priority for New Jersey, one that is vital to the health and safety of people who live and work along the river and who have long had to bear the burden of this pollution,’’ Commissioner Martin said. “Those responsible for the pollution must be accountable for the expense of the remediation, and not the taxpayers of New Jersey.”
In announcing the Occidental settlement yesterday, Acting Attorney General Hoffman and Commissioner Martin explained that the federally conceived and supervised Passaic River cleanup would be funded by the responsible parties, and that the settlement payments made to New Jersey are in addition to what the responsible parties would pay the federal government to fund remediation of the river.
Last year, Judge Lombardi approved two other settlements in the Passaic River litigation totaling $165.4 million. The first settlement resulted in payments to the State totaling $130 million by several non-discharging defendants, including Spanish oil company Repsol, S.A., and Argentina-based energy conglomerate YPF, S.A., YPF Holdings, Inc. and YPF International. Also party to that settlement were CLH Holdings, Inc., Maxus Energy Corporation, Maxus International Energy Company and Tierra Solutions, Inc.
The second settlement involved 261 third-party defendants — including 70 municipalities and other public entities that were sued and brought into the State’s case by Maxus Energy Corporation and Tierra Solutions, Inc. Under that settlement, the third-party defendants paid a total of $35.4 million to the State.