U.S. Water News Online
TRENTON, N.J. -- The state is suing more than a hundred
companies, including manufacturers and marketers of a widely used
gasoline additive, saying they harmed natural resources such as
groundwater, environmental officials said.
"We are committed to holding accountable those polluters whose
actions have sullied our rivers, land and groundwater, diminishing
public enjoyment of these natural resources," said Lisa Jackson,
commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection. "We
believe that we have a duty to pursue them and to try to get
In approximately 120 lawsuits, known as natural resource damage
claims, the DEP is going after companies that were involved in spills
or other types of pollution that damaged natural resources.
The damages are separate from fines or cleanup costs the companies
may have paid, and are intended to compensate the public for the loss
of a resource, said Larry Hajna, a DEP spokesman.
Jackson would not say exactly how much the state is seeking but
said the total could be in the "hundreds of millions of dollars."
The money is then used by the DEP for environmental restoration
projects, often in the same area where the pollution occurred.
One of the lawsuits specifically targets a long list of
oil-related companies, including ExxonMobil, Chevron and
ConocoPhillips, connected to the use and sale of methyl tertiary
butyl ether or MTBE, an additive commonly used in gasoline.
In the lawsuit, the state says that MTBE poses a "serious threat
to waters throughout the State." The lawsuit goes on to say that the
gasoline additive "can render drinking water foul, putrid and unfit
for human consumption."
The lawsuits were filed with courts around the state where the
incidents occurred. In many of the cases the state was facing a
deadline before the statute of limitations ran out, said Hajna.
Since 1994 when the Natural Resource Damage program began, the DEP
said it has collected $51 million from companies in compensation for
pollution from 1,500 contaminated sites and oil spills. The money has
gone to preserve approximately 6,000 acres of open space.
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