Friday, August 14, 2009

ExxonMobil loses on limiting NJ enviro damages

A New Jersey Superior Court judge has rejected the latest effort by ExxonMobil Corp. to limit its damages for harming natural resources at two refinery sites in Elizabeth and Bayonne.

In 2007, the Appellate Division held that the state Department of Environmental Protection had authority under the state Spill Act to seek damages for the loss of use of natural resources adversely affected by the discharge of hazardous substances.

ExxonMobil then claimed that the law defines "natural resources" as land owned, managed, held in trust or otherwise controlled by the state.

The property in question is on or next to former ExxonMobil's 1,300-acre Linden site and its 288-acre Bayonne site. The properties had been used by ExxonMobil and its predecessors since the early 1900s.

The company also argued that no New Jersey court had ruled that the Public Trust Doctrine is applicable to private uplands other than those where there was a need for beach access.

But in his July 24 decision, Judge Ross Anzaldi wrote: "This court will continue to read the Public Trust Doctrine expansively. Therefore natural resource damages are recoverable under the Spill [and Compensation Control] Act and the Public Trust Doctrine does not bar such recovery."

For more, read:
NJ sues 120 for natural resource damages
New Jersey DEP's Office of Natural Resource Restoration (ONRR)
Natural Resource Damages: An (EPA) Primer

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