Rooney bill holding polluters accountable approved by Assembly and Senate

TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney’s legislation protecting taxpayers and New Jersey’s environment cleared the Assembly and Senate today. The bill (A4814), prohibits the state from investing pension funds in entities that use bankruptcy to manipulate the system and dodge their Superfund obligations.

For several decades, the Diamond Alkali Company, now known as Maxus Energy, owned and operated a facility in Newark manufacturing agricultural chemicals including Agent Orange and DDT, that it dumped into the Passaic River. The polluted area is now the Diamond Alkali Superfund Site.

“Hundreds of thousands of gallons of the chemical dioxin were dumped into the river,” said Rooney (R-Bergen). “Dioxins are incredibly toxic and nearly impossible to degrade. This negligence had a devastating effect on the environment.”

It is one of the most polluted stretches of water in the nation. As a result of contamination, eating fish and crabs from the area are prohibited. The EPA’s $1.4 billion remediation plan is considered the one of costliest and most extensive projects ever undertaken.

The parent company of Maxus, YPF SA, intentionally placed their subsidiary into bankruptcy just months after the EPA’s announcement. The New Jersey pension fund owns more than 860,000 shares of YPF, valued at approximately $19 million. Their actions were a clear attempt to avoid their liabilities and shift the cost of the cleanup onto the taxpayers of New Jersey.

“YPF’s actions set a dangerous precedent for those facing Superfund obligations, and other companies might be emboldened to do the same thing,” continued Rooney. “New Jerseyans cannot be expected to clean messes made by those exploiting our system. Our state cannot afford it, and neither can our environment.

“Companies should know we will hold them accountable for poisoning our environment,” concluded Rooney. “We need to stand up to them, and this bill ensures that New Jersey sends a clear message that irresponsible behavior and devious tactics like this will not be tolerated.”