Home > Uncategorized > East Palestine Toxic Train Derailment Disaster Exposes Flaws In NJ $50 Million Liability Cap

East Palestine Toxic Train Derailment Disaster Exposes Flaws In NJ $50 Million Liability Cap

Railroad Company Poisoned An Entire Town Just To Keep The Trains Running

Just now read a good piece of journalism on the latest on the National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the East Palestine toxic train derailment – it will blow your mind, see:

That story jogged my addled brain to recall that one feature of this nightmare related to NJ I worked on over a decade ago:

Had that disaster occurred in NJ (like one that already has in Paulsboro), NJ Spill Compensation And Control Act would have capped liability for discharge of hazardous substances at $50 million.

[For the eerily similar prior Paulboro NJ derailment story, see:

I doubt that more than a handful of DEP regulators, industry lawyers, and legislators are aware of that fact.

[A Trenton friend shot me an email to note: “The $50 m cap is from 1977 -based on inflation alone $250 m today just based on inflation”.]

I was reminded that I worked on eliminating that cap over a decade ago, so I reminded NJ legislators that the bills they sponsored to eliminate that cap have died and not been reintroduced. This one should be right up former Corporate lawyer DEP Commissioner’s LaTourette’s alley! Hello!

———- Original Message ———-

From: Bill WOLFE <>

To: senbsmith <SenBSmith@njleg.org>, sengreenstein <sengreenstein@njleg.org>, asmmckeon <asmmckeon@njleg.org>, “asmScharfenberger@njleg.org” <asmScharfenberger@njleg.org>

Cc: “shawn.latourette@dep.nj.gov” <shawn.latourette@dep.nj.gov>, “Sean.Moriarty@dep.nj.gov” <Sean.Moriarty@dep.nj.gov>, “jonhurdle@gmail.com” <jonhurdle@gmail.com>, Robert Hennelly <rhennelly55@gmail.com>, domalley <domalley@environmentnewjersey.org>, Anjuli Ramos <anjuli.ramos@sierraclub.org>, “tracy@delawareriverkeeper.org” <tracy@delawareriverkeeper.org>

Date: 06/27/2023 3:32 PM PDT

Subject: NJ $50 M Liability Cap – East Palestine illustration

Dear Chairman Smith, Senator Greenstein and Assemblymen McKeon and Scharfenberger:

I am writing regarding previously proposed legislation, Senator Smith/Codey’s bill S2172, which was released by Committee and June 16, 2014 and Assemblyman Eustace’s bill – A4258 – which passed the Assembly 71-0 on May 15, 2015.

Both bills address serious flaws in NJ’s current $50 million cap on liability in the NJ Spill Compensation and Control Act for discharges of hazardous substances.

Both bills died and as far as I know have not been reintroduced.

As you know, since then, there have been many accidents and disasters that shed light on the flaws in the NJ Spill Act liability cap and those reform bills, most recently in the East Palestine train derailment.

Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board held a public hearing on that disaster, where Paul Thomas, vice president of health, environment, safety and security at OxyVinyls, the manufacturer of the vinyl chloride involved, testified. Thomas testified that Norfolk Southern’s decision to vent and burn five train cars of toxic chemicals had not been necessary.

Obviously, OxyVinyls is a potentially responsible party with huge liability for damages and cleanup and restoration.

But had that disaster occurred in NJ, Spill Act liability would have been capped at $50 million. That is totally unacceptable.

I strongly urge you to reintroduce and pass revised versions of those bills to eliminate the current cap and expand the scope of its application to all potential damages from disasters like East Palestine (which was similar in many ways to the Paulsboro NJ derailment disaster, so its already happened here).


Bill Wolfe

c: DEP Commissioner LaTourette

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