TRENTON, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram celebrated a public nuisance decision against ExxonMobil Wednesday.

State Superior Court Judge Ross Anzaldi said Exxon has polluted waterways, wetlands and marshes near its former refinery sites in Bayonne and Linden.

"This court decision is important in our ongoing effort to hold polluters accountable through litigation," Milgram said. "We remain committed to working with (the Department of Environmental Protection) to have those who damage our environment held legally responsible, and to obtain compensation for natural resources lost to contamination."

Milgram's office represented the DEP in the suit, which alleged the sites were heavily contaminated with oil. Anzaldi ruled there was 7-17 feet of oil at the Bayonne site before cleanup operations began in 1991.

The Linden refinery, no longer owned by Exxon, discharged hazardous materials into Morses Creek while owned by Exxon, Anzaldi said. He also found the plant contaminated the wetlands around the Linden site were contaminated with petroleum distillate residues.

"We are pleased with this ruling, which sends a clear message by affirming the public's fundamental right to be compensated when polluters harm natural resources," DEP Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson said. "Natural resource litigation is key to DEP's mission, resulting in more than $55 million for ecological enhancement projects and protection of more than 6,000 acres of land."

The DEP filed the lawsuit to require Exxon some of the natural resources it allegedly damaged and to compensate the public for the alleged loss of natural resources.

Exxon argued that the State relinquished its trust interest in the natural resources when it conveyed grants to Exxon and its predecessors more than 100 years ago.

Also representing the State were special counsel Kanner & Whitley of New Orleans and Nagel Rice in Roseland, N.J.

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