CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION WINS ANOTHER ROUND IN FIGHT TO
HOLD COMPANIES LIABLE FOR LOWER PASSAIC RIVER CLEANUP
(12/P61) TRENTON - The Christie Administration has won another round in the state's legal fight to hold those responsible for intentionally polluting the lower Passaic River with pesticides, including an extremely toxic form of dioxin, liable for cleanup, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin announced today.
Superior Court Judge Sebastian P. Lombardi, presiding in Essex County, held Maxus Energy Corporation liable under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act for past and future costs of cleaning up the polluted sediments in the lower Passaic River. Removal of contaminated sediments from a section of the river adjacent to the former Diamond Alkali/Diamond Shamrock plant site in Newark began in March.
"The cleanup of the lower Passaic River is extremely important to the public health and safety of people who live and work along the river, and is a top environmental priority of the Christie Administration," Commissioner Martin said. "We stand firm in our commitment to hold Diamond Shamrock and its successors responsible for the pollution they caused."
This is Judge Lombardi's third ruling over the past 10 months holding several companies liable for the cleanup of the river. Today's rulings complete the environmental liability phase of the state's litigation. Now that Maxus and Tierra Solutions -- both indirect subsidiaries of international corporations Repsol YPF and YPF -- along with Occidental Chemical Corp. have been held liable under the Spill Act, the state will seek costs and damages in the next phase of the litigation.
In 1983, Governor Thomas H. Kean issued Executive Order 40, declaring a state of emergency and public health crisis due to dioxins in the river from Diamond Shamrock Corporation's plant at 80 Lister Avenue. Pesticides manufactured at the site included Vietnam War-era defoliant Agent Orange and DDT. Agent Orange consisted of a form of dioxin, known as 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), one of the most toxic chemicals ever produced.
This pollution has resulted in a decades-long ban on the consumption of crabs caught in the lower Passaic River and Newark Bay complex as well as advisories on the consumption of fish.
The DEP reminds residents that harvesting blue claw crabs from the waters of the lower river and Newark Bay is prohibited because of the contamination. The DEP continues to engage in coordinated multi-language education efforts reinforcing the ban with the help of community groups and municipalities in the lower Passaic River and Newark Bay region.
The first stage of a two-phase project to remove toxic sediments from the lower Passaic River, adjacent to the Diamond Alkali Superfund site in the Ironbound section of Newark, began on March 19.
Tierra Solutions, under federal Environmental Protection Agency supervision, is currently removing 40,000 cubic yards of heavily contaminated sediment near the Lister Avenue plant site. In phase two, 160,000 cubic yards of sediments, will be removed from the same section of the river.
"We are finally making progress in the cleanup of the river, but are still waiting for a comprehensive cleanup plan from the U.S. Environmental protection Agency for the entire contaminated eight-mile stretch of the lower Passaic,'' said Commissioner Martin.
The EPA, which is the lead agency on the river cleanup, has estimated the cost of remediation for the eight-mile stretch of the lower portion of the river at approximately $1 billion to $4 billion for several potential cleanup options. EPA also is overseeing a larger study of the entire 17 miles of the Passaic River to evaluate the need and potential scope of a cleanup of additional contaminated sediment beyond the 8 mile stretch.
Two months after Governor Kean issued his 1983 executive order, Diamond Shamrock reorganized into "New Diamond Shamrock," now known as Maxus Energy Corporation. Under the reorganization, Maxus became the parent of "Old Diamond Shamrock," the company that originally owned and operated the plant.
Old Diamond Shamrock was renamed Diamond Shamrock Chemical Company. A few years later, Maxus sold Diamond Shamrock Chemical Company, which was subsequently merged into Occidental Chemical Corporation. In connection with the sale, Maxus placed the Lister Avenue site and related liabilities in a newly formed subsidiary named Tierra Solutions Inc.
In August 2011, Judge Lombardi held current site owner Tierra Solutions Inc. liable for cleanup. Tierra acquired title to the Diamond Shamrock chemical plant at 80 Lister Avenue in 1986 and still owns the site.
A month earlier, Judge Lombardi held Occidental Chemical Corporation liable for all cleanup and removal costs associated with the Lister Avenue site. Diamond Shamrock was acquired by and merged into Occidental Chemical in the 1980s.
In each of the rulings, Judge Lombardi held the companies jointly and severally liable under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act for all past and future cleanup and removal costs associated with hazardous discharges from the plant, which manufactured pesticides from 1946 to 1969 under the names of Kolker Chemical Works, Diamond Alkali and Diamond Shamrock.
The state is represented in the Passaic River litigation by the Office of the Attorney General and special counsel from the firms of Gordon & Gordon of Springfield, N.J., and Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs of Houston, Texas.
Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs secures key victory over Occidental Chemical Corporation in the Passaic River Litigation
In July of 2011, Superior Court Judge Sebastian P. Lombardi, presiding in Essex County, held that Occidental Chemical Corporation, one of eight companies named in a lawsuit filed by the State of New Jersey, is jointly and severally liable to contribute to the cleanup and removal costs under the state's Spill Compensation and Control Act. The federal Environmental Protection Agency, the lead agency on the river's cleanup, has estimated the cost of remediation for the most heavily contaminated portion of the river, an eight-mile stretch nearest the Lister Avenue plant, at $1 billion to $4 billion. Occidental had claimed in court papers that it did not assume responsibility for the contamination from the Lister Avenue site when it acquired corporate stock from Diamond Shamrock. Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs, PC serves as special counsel to the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey in litigation against the corporate successors to the former Agent Orange manufacturing plant that intentionally dumped dioxins into the Passaic River.
Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs secures Summary Judgment against Defendant Tierra Solutions Inc. in the Passaic River Litigation
In August 2011, Superior Court Judge Sebastian P. Lombardi, presiding in Essex County, held current site owner Tierra Solutions Inc. liable for cleanup under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act. Judge Lombardi determined that the companies are liable under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act for all past and future cleanup and removal costs associated with hazardous discharges from the plant, which manufactured pesticides and herbicides from 1951 to 1969. Tierra acquired title to the Diamond Shamrock chemical plant at 80 Lister Avenue in 1986 and still currently owns the site. Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs, PC is serving as special counsel to the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey in litigation against the corporate successors to the former Agent Orange manufacturing plant that intentionally dumped dioxins into the Passaic River.
Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs, PC receives Pro Bono Award from Judiciary.
In May, Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs, PC was awarded the Harris County Bench/Bar Pro Bono Award for outstanding pro bono efforts for the public. The award is made on behalf of the Harris County Judiciary and local bar associations, with the selection committee made up of seven members of the judiciary and five practicing attorneys serving as leaders of local bar organizations, including the Houston Bar Association. Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs, PC was nominated for the award by the Galveston Bay Foundation for the firm's pro bono work in connection with the San Jacinto River Dioxin Pits Site.
Galveston Bay Foundation
Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs, PC has been retained by the Galveston Bay Foundation to work with the United States Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that immediate and effective response actions are taken at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site. The Firm is representing the Galveston Bay Foundation on a pro bono basis and joins GBF in applauding the EPA's approach to interim removal and containment of the dioxins from these pits that constitute an ongoing and significant source of dioxin loadings to all of Galveston Bay.
Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs secures Jurisdictional Win on Passaic River
Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs, PC is serving as special counsel to the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey in litigation against the corporate successors to the former Agent Orange manufacturing plant that intentionally dumped dioxins into the Passaic River. Following a lengthy jurisdictional battle, the New Jersey courts denied the parent companies' motions to dismiss the claims against them for lack of personal jurisdiction in New Jersey, based in part upon their subsidiaries' actions in New Jersey. Attorney General Ann Milgram issued a press release applauding this important ruling and noting its significance to the ultimate clean-up of the Passaic River.
Click here to view the Attorney General's Press Release and the Court's Opinion
Dredging Up Ghosts
Operations of Port Authorities across the country are impacted every day by contaminants suspended in the waters of the ports, such as from an oil spill, or in the submerged sediments, which often contain pesticides and other hazardous substances from historical neighboring operations. Often times, such contamination can either halt or dramatically increase the cost of dredging and disposal operations, which can have a dramatic impact on ports and commerce generally. Fortunately, there are various legal remedies afforded port authorities, governmental entities, and institutional landowners seeking to avoid or recoup such costs.
The Long Poisonous Wait
The long history of the contamination in the Passaic River and the urgent need for remedy and restoration of the Passaic River and surrounding areas are examined by the Newark Star-Ledger.
Oil Spill Issues Facing Gulf Ports
Days after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began, Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs, PC was the featured presenter and underwriter of the Gulf Ports Association of the Americas Spring Meeting. At that meeting, Micheal Dobbs presented to the port authorities on the Gulf of Mexico on the status of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the nature of the environmental and economic impacts that could be expected as a result of this historic release, and some of the legal remedies available to port authorities under the Oil Pollution Act and other federal and state causes of action. For a summary of the PowerPoint presentation please click on the download icon on this page.