TRENTON, N.J. – The Assembly Appropriations Committee today approved Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney’s legislation prohibiting state public pension funds from investing in companies or countries that avoid their responsibility for environmental cleanups.
Rooney drafted the legislation (A4814) after an Argentina-owned chemical company filed for bankruptcy protection months after the EPA announced a $1.38 billion cleanup plan for the Passaic River Superfund site owned by the company. The bill passed by an 11-0 vote.
“Companies should know we will hold them accountable for poisoning New Jersey’s environment,” said Rooney (R-Bergen). “Bankruptcy laws should not be used as shields for companies to escape their duty to clean up their mess. We won’t let them abandon taxpayers without consequences. No longer will irresponsible corporations be allowed to profit with money invested from our state pension funds.”
Last June 2016, Texas-based Maxus Energy Corporation filed for bankruptcy, avoiding a billion-dollar cleanup of the Passaic River Superfund site owned by the company. Maxus, formerly Diamond Shamrock Corporation, is a subsidiary of Argentina government-owned YPF SA.
“That company is ultimately responsible for the condition of the Passaic River,” said Rooney. “New Jersey pension funds own more than 800,000 shares of YPF SA, valued at almost $19 million. We need to pull our money out as soon as possible.”
As a result of contamination of the river ecosystem, eating fish and crabs from the area are prohibited. The EPA’s cleanup plans include dredging 3.5 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the Passaic.
“Powerful herbicides were produced at the site, and hundreds of thousands of gallons of dioxin, chemicals used in Agent Orange and pesticides were discharged into the river,” said Rooney. “This negligence had a devastating effect on the environment.”