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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 29, 2007

Contact:Elaine Makatura (609) 292-2994
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795

State Files Lawsuits Seeking Compensation for Damages Polluters Caused to Natural Resources

(07/37) TRENTON -The state has filed approximately 120 lawsuits that could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation from polluters who have harmed New Jersey’s natural resources, including numerous manufacturers and marketers of the gasoline additive MTBE, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson announced today.

“We are committed to holding accountable those polluters whose actions have sullied our rivers, land and ground water, diminishing public enjoyment of these natural resources,” Commissioner Jackson said. “Working closely with the Attorney General’s office, we will aggressively pursue these claims through the court system until the public has been justly compensated for its losses.”

Attorney General Anne Milgram added: “We are working with DEP to ensure that contaminated properties are cleaned up and restored, and that, where appropriate, polluters compensate the residents of New Jersey for the loss of precious natural resources.”

The lawsuits, known as natural resource damage claims, seek compensation above and beyond cleanup costs and fines that DEP levies against polluters. DEP uses money from natural resource damage settlements toward ecological restoration projects, typically in the same watershed or general area where resource damages occur.

One of the lawsuits specifically targets scores of designers and manufacturers of the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether as well as major-brand refiners and marketers of gasoline that used MTBE, including Amerada Hess, Atlantic Richfield Co., BP America, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Getty, Shell, Texaco and Valero Energy.

With this particular lawsuit, New Jersey becomes the third state to file complaints seeking natural resource damages for the recovery of all past and future costs to investigate, remediate and restore natural resources damaged by the discharge of MTBE.

Among other companies facing natural resource damage lawsuits are Ciba Geigy Specialty Chemicals in Dover, Ocean County; the Bayway refinery in Linden, Union County; Gloucester City Titanium in Gloucester City, Camden County; Landfill & Development Co. in Lumberton, Mount Holly and Eastampton, Burlington County; as well as Dow/Union Carbide in Middlesex Borough and Piscataway Township, Middlesex County.

The state’s lawsuits take a special focus on polluters that have damaged river resources. Lawsuits have been filed against ISP Environmental Services and G-I Holdings Inc., located in Linden along Piles Creek near the Arthur Kill; Mallinckrodt Baker, along the Delaware River in Phillipsburg, Warren County; Genstar Gypsum, located along the Delaware River in Camden, Camden County; and Rhone Poulenc along the Raritan River in Middlesex Borough.

“These companies have left a legacy of pollutants in sediments ranging from PCBs and pesticides to volatile chemicals and hydrocarbons,” Commissioner Jackson said. “Clean rivers are vital to a vibrant economy and a healthy environment.”

Since its inception in 1994, DEP’s Natural Resource Damage program has recovered more than $51 million and preserved approximately 6,000 acres of open space as wildlife habitat and ground water recharge areas as compensation for pollution resulting from 1,500 contaminated sites and oil spills.

Under DEP’s technical rules, all parties responsible for polluting a site must conduct a thorough analysis to determine the nature and extent of pollution. Once this remedial investigation is completed, DEP has 5 ½ years to file a lawsuit to recover damages to natural resources if the responsible party does not restore the injured resource before then.

The Legislature recognized that remedial investigations were completed at some sites many years ago without the filing of natural resource damage lawsuits. Consequently, the Legislature provided a mechanism that required filing of lawsuits within 5 ½ years of Jan. 1, 2002. The lawsuits include sites evaluated by DEP and the Attorney General’s office as being affected by this deadline, which expires Saturday.

DEP and the Attorney General’s office continue to file new natural resource damage claims as remedial investigations are competed.

View a listing and electronic versions of individual lawsuits.

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Last Updated: July 2, 2007