Home > Uncategorized > Exxon Sellout Shines Light On NJ’s $50 Million Cap on Spill Liability

Exxon Sellout Shines Light On NJ’s $50 Million Cap on Spill Liability

Legislation To Eliminate Current $50 Million Liability Cap Stalled In NJ Senate

Christie Vetoed Legislation That Would Have Increased Cap to $1 Billion

Cap Lets Corporate Polluters Off The Hook In The Event of A Huge Spill

[Update: the Assembly version – A4258 – passed the Assembly 71-0 on May 154, 2015. No media coverage. The bill needs to be expanded for all spills/releases, not just off shore drilling.]

The Christie Administration’s $225 million sweetheart deal with Exxon – settling for less than 3 cents on the dollar of a $8.9 billion natural resource damage claim – has rightly spawned huge public outrage and scathingly critical editorials.

Today, Senate Democratic leader Senator Lesniak will hold a press conference with NY/NJ Baykeeper to kick off a public campaign to convince Superior Court Judge Hogan to reject the corrupt deal.

Senator Sweeney, in the wake of a Star Ledger report that Exxon will benefit from tax loopholes, has expressed outrage and proposed new legislation to eliminate any similar state tax breaks. The Star Ledger editorialized on that today.

Perhaps while Sweeney and Lesniak are at it, they can get Senator Smith’s bill S2172 moving and expand it to more than just drilling platforms?

That bill would eliminate the current $50 million cap on spill liability, but only for spills from off shore drilling platforms.

There could be a pipeline rupture, a tanker or railcar crash, or a huge spill at Exxon Bayway refinery that could cause $10 billion in damages to Raritan Bay and even the Jersey shore.

In that kind of accident, under current NJ law, Exxon’s cleanup liability would be capped at $50 million.

Did you know that?

As I wrote, a bill to eliminate that $50 million cap has stalled for years in the Senate, blocked by Budget Committee Chairman Sarlo, and presumably lacks Sweeney’s support:

Although you would not know about it by reading the NJ media, last Monday (6/16/14) the Senate Environment Committee heard testimony on and released an important bill to eliminate the current $50 million liability cap on pollution discharges from off shore drilling platforms that enter NJ waters, see, S2172 (Smith, D-Middlesex).

The bill is limited in scope to drilling platforms and is a significantly scaled back version of a bill (S2108) originally introduced in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil well blowout. That bill would have applied to far more hazardous activities. It was heard in July 2010 and I wrote about it here:

A far narrower compromise version of that bill passed both houses of the legislature by unanimous votes, but was pocket vetoed by Governor Christie in January 2012. The Governor did not even explain why he effectively vetoed the bill.

Something to consider as legislators express outrage over Governor Christie’s Exxon NRD deal.

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