New Jersey is moving toward making polluters pay the full cost of cleaning up offshore spills.
A bill to remove a cap on liability for oil and other spills into coastal waters was passed by the state Senate on Monday and was sent to the Assembly’s Environment and Solid Waste Committee for further action.
The current cap, passed in 1976, is $65 million in damages. That limit wouldn’t cover the cost of a BP-type spill off the New Jersey coast, said Jeff Tittel, chapter director at the Sierra Club, a national environmental organization.
“If we don’t raise the liability cap, instead of the polluters paying, the taxpayers will,” Tittel said. “We believe this legislation is an important step forward in protecting our coasts from oil spills. If companies know they’ll have to pay for damages, they may do things in a safer way.”
President Barack Obama’s administration said earlier this month it will not open new areas of the Atlantic seaboard and eastern Gulf of Mexico to drilling, reversing a decision to hunt for oil and gas that the president himself announced three weeks before the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history in April.
More than 200 million gallons of oil began gushing from a well about 50 miles southeast of the Mississippi River Delta after a rig exploded April 20. The well was capped in mid-July.
The New Jersey bill also would hold a polluter responsible for business losses and lost wages of people and companies affected by a spill.
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