New Jersey Plays Hardball With Polluters

In the most aggressive attack on polluters anywhere in the nation, New Jersey is demanding that more than 80 companies pay penalties for causing harm to the environment. The penalties are not simply the price tag of a cleanup; rather, they are natural-resource damage claims, under which companies must assess how much their pollution has cost the public in everything from contaminated drinking water to lost recreational opportunities. The state has ordered Johnson & Johnson, ExxonMobil, Lockheed Martin, Sherwin-Williams, Lucent Technology, and many other companies to determine how much damage they’ve done and begin settlement discussions. In the past, natural-resource damage claims, although permissible in many states, have been used primarily only in the event of major oil spills, in part because assessing and collecting on the claims can be very complex.