Home > Uncategorized > NJ Attorney General Grewal Says News Reports Spurred Dupont Lawsuit, Not NJ DEP Referral

NJ Attorney General Grewal Says News Reports Spurred Dupont Lawsuit, Not NJ DEP Referral

Appears that DEP failed to refer Dupont to AG’s Office

At the end of a recent Bergen Record story about a controversial proposed municipal zoning change that would dramatically weaken applicable DEP cleanup standards and save the Chemours corporation millions of dollars in cleanup costs -as if all that were not bad enough – we were shocked by this astonishing admission by NJ Attorney General Grewal:

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the NorthJersey.com and USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey investigative series “Toxic Secrets” spurred the Pompton Lakes lawsuit. The series showed how DuPont masked health risks caused by extensive contamination in the borough by refusing to test homes for toxic fumes.

How is it possible that news reports spurred the Dupont Natural Resource Damage (NRD) lawsuit and not recommendations by the NJ DEP’s NRD program?

That is a huge failure by NJ DEP Commissioner McCabe.

And it also suggests that politics and media played a larger role in the AG’s litigation decision than science and natural resource protection.

The NJ DEP has an Office of Natural Resource Restoration (ONRR) to assure that injuries to natural resources are restored and the polluters are held accountable.

The DEP ONRR mission is:

The Office of Natural Resource Restoration has the primary responsibility within the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for responding to discharges and other sources of pollution that trigger the DEP’s obligations as the trustee for all of New Jersey’s natural resources for the benefit of all of its citizens, now and in the future.  This effort includes working with the persons responsible for conducting the remediation to return such natural resources to their pre-discharge quality, quantity, function, and value, and to implement restoration projects to compensate New Jersey citizens for the lost interim value or for the permanent loss of their natural resources.

The scientific and technical information to pursue an NRD lawsuit is generated by the NJ DEP ONRR.

Based on this scientific information, the policy recommendation to file an NRD lawsuit should originate in NJ DEP Commissioner’s office, via a formal referral to the Attorney General’s Office.

The DEP is the “client” in NRD litigation – the AG  is supposed to support NJ DEP’s enforcement policy.

There were plenty of grounds to re-open the prior corrupt DEP – Dupont NRD deal.

The fact that AG Grewal was “spurred” to file an NRD lawsuit against Dupont based on news reports is a stunning admission of a total breakdown between the NJ DEP and the Attorney General’s Office.

We sensed this weakness of DEP and a breakdown on NRD at the outset of the Murphy administration, and criticized NJ DEP Commissioner McCabe in this March 13, 2018 post:

Murphy’s Acting DEP Commissioner McCabe is an attorney and former US Justice Department natural resource lawyer, so surely she understands the legal and policy weaknesses of the Christie NRD legal policy and DEP program.

So why on earth did Murphy AG Grewal (and DEP McCabe) rubber stamp the Christie draft settlements BEFORE conducting a policy review and public process of reform, including promulgating DEP NRD regulations that the courts have found necessary?

Our subsequent filing of an OPRA public record request confirmed our suspicions, which I documented and expanded upon in this followup post:

In a stunning admission, the Murphy DEP’s response to my MTBE Natural Resource Damage OPRA request claims that DEP has no documents that provided a basis to negotiate the recent $200 million settlement with Big Oil for contaminating groundwater and drinking water supplies across the state at thousands of sites with the fuel additive MTBE.

The settlement documents (i.e. the terms of the settlements) and the DEP websites suggested by DEP to provide background do not provide any technical information regarding the magnitude, location, degree, and extent of groundwater contamination; the number of facilities that released MTBE to groundwater; the DEP’s definition of “natural resource injury”, or the DEP’s economic methodology for quantifying natural resource injuries for the purposes of legally required compensation and/or restoration.

This is incredible.

How did the Attorney General negotiate and arrive at $200 million as an appropriate settlement to compensate the public, if there are no technical documents that factually define the extent of injury and quantify the economic value of the natural resource injury and/or natural resource restoration?

Did the AG just make up that number out of thin air? Pull it out of a hat?

How did the AG arrive at $200 million as acceptable public compensation if he did not know the extent of the damage? Or the cost of restoration?

Surely Chemour’s lawyers read the paper too – and these kind of comments by the AG will be used against him in a court of law, for sure.

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