Sweeney, Bateman Bill Limiting Liability During Oil Deliveries to Unregulated Tanks Advances

Sweeney Woolwich

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Christopher Bateman supplementing the “Spill Compensation and Control Act” liability provisions cleared the Senate today.

The bill, S-2662, would amend current law so a person delivering heating oil to an unregulated heating oil tank would not be liable for cleanup and removal costs or for direct or indirect damages due to the discharge of oil from the tank unless the person knew or should have known that the delivery would result in the hazardous discharge from the tank. 

“Our oil providers are being unfairly penalized for consequences they have no control over or responsibility for,” said Senator Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland).  “What’s happening to them is unjust and this legislation will rectify this situation.”

The New Jersey Supreme Court has previously stated that there were no defenses under the Spill Act and no time barred by a six year statute of limitations.  The industry has been adversely affected by the misapplication by the courts statement by an Appellate Division stating “…any defendant who is shown to have delivered fuel oil into a leaking UST system, released a hazardous substance into the ground and could meet that statutory definition of a discharger.” 

This one statement has resulted in heating oil dealers who have no knowledge that a tank is leaking held liable as a discharger under the Spill Act which has hurt companies forcing them to pay for defense and contribution.

The bill cleared the Senate with a vote of 39-0.