- Associated Press - Monday, May 11, 2015

Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill Monday that would have required New Jersey to put the majority of its money from a much-criticized proposed pollution settlement with Exxon Mobil Corp. toward environmental cleanups.

The state earlier this year announced a $225 million deal with the oil company over pollution around its refineries in Linden and Bayonne.

Christie is proposing in his budget plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1 that $50 million go toward cleanup and the rest to help balance the state’s budget.

Democrats who control the Legislature passed a bill requiring half of the money beyond the first $50 million in any natural resources settlement to go toward cleanups. The bill pertains to any settlement, but it’s aimed at the deal with Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil in particular.

The Republican governor, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, vetoed the bill Monday, saying those decisions should be made each year through the budgeting process. He also said his veto should not be taken as disregard for the environment.

“The protection and preservation of the ecological wonders of which New Jersey is so proud have always been critical considerations when weighing where New Jersey’s limited budget dollars should be delivered,” Christie said in his veto statement, “but there are always challenging decisions that must be made when balancing a complex state budget.”

Christie also said that if lawmakers tried to use the state budget to move the money into cleanups, he would use a line-item veto to nix that.

The veto touches a few critical points in Christie’s relationship with lawmakers.

First, Democrats, like many environmental groups, are upset about the Exxon Mobil settlement itself. They believe the state, which was suing the oil company for nearly $9 billion, is letting the company off easy. That deal is in the middle of a 60-day public comment period.

Second, lawmakers have never been able to muster the votes to override one of Christie’s vetoes.

It’s not clear whether they’ll have the votes this time, either.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat, said Monday that he had not heard about the veto yet and did not know how it might play out.

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Follow Mulvihill at https://www.twiter.com/geoffmulvihill


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