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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 28, 2005

Contact: Erin Phalon
(609) 984-1795

DEP ANNOUNCES NRD SETTLEMENT WITH EL PASO CORPORATION

Company Will Protect More Than 260 Acres and Pay for Wetlands Restoration

TRENTON (05/86)- Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today announced the settlement of natural resource damage (NRD) claims against El Paso Corporation for injuries to wetlands and groundwater at 37 sites in 10 New Jersey counties.

"This settlement illustrates that our pursuit of natural resource damages translates directly into water supply and open space preservation in our communities," said Commissioner Campbell. "New Jersey is the only state systematically pursuing NRD claims for these types of injuries, and the only state achieving on-the-ground restoration through these claims."

El Paso Corporation is a Delaware-based natural gas transporter with principal offices in Houston, Texas. DEP is currently working with the company to remediate discharges of hazardous substances to wetlands and groundwater at sites throughout the state that were impacted by El Paso's predecessors.

As compensation for the natural resource damages arising from these discharges, El Paso has agreed to purchase and preserve 263 acres in two separate parcels. In Warren County, El Paso will purchase 133 acres that exhibit some of the highest aquifer recharge in the state and will be made part of DEP's Pequest Wildlife Management Area. In Sussex County, El Paso will purchase 130 acres that contain endangered species habitat and will be deeded to the Walkill National Wildlife Refuge. Both parcels will be open to the public for outdoor recreation.

In addition, the company has agreed to pay the state $260,000 for wetlands restoration work at a site to be determined.

NRD claims compensate the residents of New Jersey for the injury and lost use of natural resources due to contamination. Injuries can refer to both ecological injuries to wetlands, wildlife, groundwater or surface water and to human use injuries such as the closure of a waterway to fishing, a beach to swimming or an aquifer for use as drinking water supply.

DEP prefers NRD settlements to include restoration work and resource protection in lieu of payment of monetary damages. NRD claims are separate from the costs associated with cleaning up contamination.

New Jersey has collected $29.8 million in settlements for natural resource damages since 2002 involving 313 sites. New Jersey is working with 94 additional parties representing about 850 sites that seek to voluntarily resolve their liability for natural resource damages. In all, the state has negotiated more than twice the amount of NRD compensation, including protection of more than 2,200 acres of land, from polluters in the past three years than in the previous 10 years of New Jersey's NRD program.

The proposed NRD settlement with El Paso will appear in the August 1, 2005 New Jersey Register and will be subject to a 30-day public comment period.

 

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NJDEP Office of Natural Resource Restoration
http://www.nj.gov/dep/nrr/

 

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Last Updated: June 28, 2005