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The American Littoral Society is urging New Jersey citizens to attend a hearing in Bayonne on Wednesday, June 3, on the settlement between the state and a major polluter.

Many officials have had a say on a proposed financial deal with Exxon over pollution around many of the company's facilities in New Jersey.

This Wednesday, regular citizens - the people who live and work around the polluted wetlands, forests and intertidal habitat - will have a forum for their opinions regarding the settlement brokered between Gov. Chris Christie's administration and the oil giant, when the state Assembly Judiciary Committee holds a hearing at 10:30 a.m. in the City of Bayonne Municipal Council Chambers.

Many, including the American Littoral Society, have already rejected the pact.

Tim Dillingham, director of the American Littoral Society, said he was "astounded by the news of the settlement. New Jersey's environment loses and it sets a bad precedent."

"This isn't just a bad deal for the environment," Dillingham said. "It's a bad deal for New Jersey's economy. The loss of billions of dollars and local jobs that would come from real restoration of the damaged environment hurts the state and its people."

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection experts and outside consultants concluded that environmental damage done by Exxon would cost billions of dollars to clean-up or control. But Gov. Christie's office proposed that the mammoth corporation pay only $225 million. About 20 percent of the money would go toward state environmental issues. The rest of the settlement would be used to balance the state budget.

In mid-May, the NJ state Assembly passed a resolution which said the proposed settlement "shocks the conscience in light of undisputed evidence of significant damage to, and loss of, the state's natural resources...."

"The Assembly has made its voice clear in opposing this settlement, but I also want to make sure those directly impacted by this environmental damage get a chance to make their voices heard," said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris), prime sponsor of the resolution. "This settlement is a slap in the face, especially for those who live in the areas affected by the contamination, yet it's barely a slap on the wrist for Exxon. The public deserves the chance to express their opinion and be heard loud and clear."

The hearing on the settlement is scheduled for June 3 at 10:30 a.m. in the City of Bayonne Municipal Council Chambers at 630 Avenue C, Bayonne, NJ.

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