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Gatx Terminals Corp. v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

Decided: April 23, 1980.

GATX TERMINALS CORPORATION, A CORPORATION ORGANIZED UNDER THE LAWS OF DELAWARE, APPELLANT,
v.
THE NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, DANIEL J. O'HERN, COMMISSIONER, NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION; AND JOHN J. DEGNAN, NEW JERSEY ATTORNEY GENERAL, RESPONDENT



On appeal from New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Allcorn, Morgan and Francis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Francis, J.A.D.

Francis

On this appeal GATX Corporation (GATX) challenges N.J.A.C. 7:1E-4.1 through N.J.A.C. 7:1E-4.24 which were promulgated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) pursuant to the Spill Compensation and Control Act (SCCA), N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11 et seq.

GATX contends that the challenged regulations, an entire subchapter of the regulations governing "Discharges of Petroleum and Other Hazardous Substances," N.J.A.C. 7:1E-1.1, et seq. , are invalid because they are "inconsistent with the language of the Spill Compensation Control Act and constitute a substantive addition thereto," and are "beyond the scope of the intent of the legislature." The DEP maintains that all of the provisions of subchapter 4 find adequate support in the statutory authority.

The SCCA became law in 1977. L. 1976, c. 141. The section of the act which contains the legislative findings and declaration, N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11a, shows that the passage of SCCA was prompted by legislative concern for the damage to the State's economy and environment caused by the discharge of petroleum and other hazardous substances onto the land and into the waters of New Jersey.

The major features of the act can be briefly summarized.*fn1 The discharge of hazardous substances is prohibited except in compliance with a state or federal permit. N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11c.

Major facilities (defined in the act) are to submit certain information to the DEP including a description of the steps taken to insure prevention of a discharge. N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11d. Provisions are also made for the DEP to remove or arrange for the removal of discharged hazardous substances under certain circumstances. N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11f. Most of the remaining features of the act pertain to the provision of compensation for those who are harmed by the discharge of hazardous substances. In order to compensate such individuals, "The New Jersey Spill Compensation Fund" is established, N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11i, and certain entities and individuals are taxed in order to provide revenue for the Fund. N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11h, as amended by L. 1979, c. 6.

The authority of the Department of Environmental Protection to promulgate rules and regulations enforcing the act is mentioned in two sections of the statute. N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11t gives the Commissioner of the Department, the State Treasurer, and the Director of the Division of Taxation the authority to adopt rules which they deem "necessary to accomplish their respective purposes and responsibilities" under the act. In addition, and of particular interest, is ยง 5(f) of the act, N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11d(f), which states:

The Department shall promulgate rules and regulations, as provided in section 21 of this act, establishing standards for the availability of preventative cleanup and removal procedures, personnel and equipment at any major facility, as well as requiring the formulation of cleanup and removal plans for each major facility, where such plans are not required by existing Federal statute, rule or regulation . . .

The legislative history of the SCCA reveals that the act was in many respects a compromise between the measure which was sought by environmental organizations and that which was favored by industry groups. Testimony at a joint hearing of the Senate and Assembly Energy and Environmental Committees,

which was held on June 2, 1976, indicated that the environmentalists and representatives of local government sought a strong approach towards the prevention of discharges and compensation of those who have been harmed by the discharge of oil and other hazardous substances. However, only one such speaker went so far as to suggest that the proposed law should contain minimum design or construction standards. In contrast to the members of the environmental organizations, industry representatives sought a law ...


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