- Associated Press - Thursday, September 17, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A New Jersey court considering whether to let environmental groups and a Democratic state senator intervene in the state’s $225 million settlement with Exxon Mobil should block their efforts, the governor’s administration said in a court filing this week.

Gov. Chris Christie’s administration moved Wednesday to block environmental groups, which include Clean Water Action, Delaware Riverkeeper, Environment New Jersey and New Jersey Sierra Club, and state Sen. Ray Lesniak, from intervening in the state’s settlement with the Irving, Texas-based oil company in the 11-year-old case.

A similar motion to intervene was denied before the settlement approval last month. The administration argued the circumstances have not changed.

“Nothing has changed since the court issued that opinion, except that the court now has had a full opportunity to weigh (the groups’ and Lesniak’s) objections to the settlement and determine that none of them warrant disapproval (of the settlement),” the state argued in its brief.

Lesniak and the environmental groups criticized the government’s motion. It’s shameful the state is trying to block the public’s right to appeal the settlement, Lesniak said Thursday.

The Christie administration is more concerned with protecting Exxon, said New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel.

The groups and Lesniak argue the settlement was too little compared with an earlier estimate of $8.9 billion. They’re seeking to become parties in the case.

Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan approved the settlement last month after a 66-day trial.

A spokesman for Exxon said the settlement brings finality and certainty to the case. They still, however, must clean up the sites.

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