Rooney Moves To Clean Up Passaic River And Prevent State From Investing Pension Funds In Corporations Dodging Their Responsibilities To Taxpayers

TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney introduced legislation (A4814) prohibiting the state from investing public retirement funds in any business that avoids paying Superfund obligations to the state. He is also sponsoring multiple resolutions to ensure the lower Passaic River is cleaned up.

“Companies should understand we are going to hold them accountable,” said Rooney (R-Bergen). “If they try to shirk their responsibilities to taxpayers through bankruptcy, they will pay a price, and that will include the loss of investment from the state’s sizeable pension funds.”Rooney said the state and EPA must take every step necessary to ensure companies live up to their responsibility to remediate the environment, and is sponsoring AR251, a resolution urging the EPA to accelerate the cleanup of the Diamond Alkali Superfund Site.

Last June, Texas-based Maxus Energy Corp., a subsidiary of YPF SA, a corporation owned by Argentina, filed for bankruptcy protection. Maxus, formerly known as Diamond Shamrock Corporation, sought federal protection just three months after the Environmental Protection Agency announced a $1.38 billion cleanup plan for the Passaic River Superfund site owned by the company. Rooney sponsors a resolution (AR250) urging the Argentine government to fulfill its superfund obligations for the Passaic River.

“Powerful herbicides were produced there, and hundreds of thousands of gallons of dioxin, chemicals used in Agent Orange and pesticides, spilled into the river,” said Rooney. “This negligence had a devastating effect on the environment.”

As a result of contamination of the river ecosystem, consuming 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.

“Bankruptcy laws should not be used as shields for companies to shirk their responsibility to clean up environmental hazards they helped create,” Rooney said last month, after attending a special legislative hearing in Lyndhurst to discuss cleaning up the Passaic River. “The state and federal governments should be using all the tools in their arsenal to ensure that the river cleanup is financed by private sources, not taxpayers.”

The assemblyman also sponsors a resolution (AR219) which supports requiring polluting companies to clean contaminated sites as a result of their work. The resolution urges the State Commission of Investigation and state and federal prosecutors to examine Maxus Energy’s actions.