Sunday, July 1, 2007

NJ sues 120 for natural resource damages

New Jersey expects to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental resource damages from companies named in some 120 separate lawsuits filed on Friday, one day short of a legislative deadline.

Known as Natural Resource Damage (NRD) claims, the lawsuits seek compensation above and beyond fines and cleanup costs that already might have been paid by the companies.

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. New Jersey is now the third state to seek NRD damages for the recovery of all past and future costs to investigate, remediate and restore natural resources damaged by the discharge of MTBE.

Other companies facing NRD claims 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.

[See Asbury Park Press story on the Ciba Geigy suit and Bergen Record and NJ-DEP news release on the general filing]

DEP says its lawsuits also focus on polluters that have damaged river resources. Included in this category are 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.

Click here for a list of the companies and electronic copies of the individual suits.

Since 1994, the state 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 an 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.

Recognizing that remedial investigations were completed at some sites many years ago without the filing of natural resource damage lawsuits, the state Legislature required the state to file of lawsuits within 5 ½ years of Jan. 1, 2002. The filing of the 120 lawsuits on Friday came on the last day prior to the Legislature's July 1, 2007 deadline.

Related information: Drinking water supply contaminated in Ringwood, NJ; EPA document: MTBE (methyl-t-butyl ether)in Drinking Water ; Feb 23 2007 AP story: GAO: Cleaning up gas-station leaks will cost $12 billion

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