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Eustace Introduces Two-Bill Package to Crack Down on Environmental Pollution, Increase Accountability

Assemblyman Tim Eustace has introduced a two-bill package to crack down on environmental pollution and increase accountability when it comes to oil and natural gas leaks.

The first bill would address the discharge of hazardous substances in New Jersey waters and the second bill would address methane gas leaks, a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

“If the Deepwater Horizon disaster taught us anything, it’s that oil spills are devastating and expensive to remediate,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Given how important New Jersey’s shores are to our economy and our eco-system, we need to have assurance that should we ever encounter a remotely similar situation, those responsible will be held fully accountable for the clean-up and associated damages.”

To that end, Eustace’s first bill (A-4258) stipulates that any person who is in any way responsible for discharging a hazardous substance from a drilling platform, into the waters outside the jurisdiction of New Jersey, that enters the waters of the state, shall be liable, strictly, jointly and severally, without regard to fault for:

– cleanup and removal costs;

– damages for injury to, destruction of, loss of, or loss of use of natural resources, including costs of assessing the damage;

– damages for injury to, or economic losses resulting from, destruction of real or personal property; and

– damages for loss of profits or impairment of earning capacity due to the injury, destruction, or loss of real or personal property, or natural resources.

In addition, the bill stipulates that the liability imposed pursuant to this bill would not in any way limit liability that otherwise may be imposed under any other state or federal law.

Eustace’s second bill (A-4260) would require natural gas pipeline utilities to repair or replace pipelines that leak natural gas, within time frames to be established by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) or face steep penalties.

Methane, the primary component in natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, methane is 20 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Methane accounts for nine percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, making it the second most prevalent greenhouse gas, after carbon dioxide.

Over 60 percent of total methane emissions come from human activities such as industry, agriculture, and waste management. Of these activities, natural gas and petroleum systems are the second-largest source, representing 29 percent of all methane emissions from human activity. Several reports have shown that leaking natural gas pipelines are a major source of methane emissions.

“Most state and federal laws and regulations pertaining to natural gas pipelines focus primarily on health and safety issues, but not the environment,” added Eustace. “This bill would address the climate change impacts from natural gas pipeline leaks by requiring gas utilities to repair or replace leaking pipelines in a timely fashion.”

Under the bill, the DEP, in consultation with the Board of Public Utilities, would be required to adopt regulations establishing inspection and reporting requirements, prioritized time frames for the repair and replacement of pipelines based on the severity of leaks, best practices and repair standards, and de minimis exceptions to the repair and replacement requirements.

A natural gas pipeline utility that fails to comply with these requirements would be subject to the penalties set forth in the “Air Pollution Control Act of 1954,” including a civil fine of up to $10,000 for the first offense, $25,000 for the second offense, and $50,000 for a third or subsequent offense.