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Expertise and Discretion: New Jersey's Approach to Natural Resource Damages

January 2020

Citation: ELR 10030

Author: Allan Kanner

With a Department of Environmental Protection that predates the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New Jersey has always been at the forefront of combating pollution, becoming only the third state to consolidate all environmental protection and conservation into one cohesive agency on April 22, 1970, and paving the way for environmental protection nationwide with the passage of the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act (Spill Act) in 1976. Given its pioneering history, New Jersey’s natural resource damage law, including the Spill Act and the public trust doctrine, remains more robust than its federal counterparts and offers an incomparable example of the success of state-based environmental protection and conservation. This Comment addresses some of the more significant differences between federal and New Jersey law that allow the Spill Act to function in a more efficient manner, including its extensive use of the public trust doctrine, its strong restoration policy, its retroactive application, and its broad strict joint and several liability provisions, while also highlighting provisions that make environmental statutes at both the state and federal levels unique.

Allan Kanner is the founding member of Kanner & Whiteley, LLC. He handles environmental, natural resource damage, and toxic tort litigation.

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