State Files Lawsuits
Seeking Compensation for Damages Polluters Caused to Natural
(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,
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.
a listing and electronic versions of individual lawsuits.