Navigation Law currently holds petroleum dischargers strictly liable for all cleanup expenses and damages resulting from a spill and requires prompt remediation. This bill requires the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), upon request, to now investigate whether a third party is also involved and determine the degree to which each party is responsible prior to ordering a cleanup.
Records indicate that there can be dozens of petroleum discharges in New York State in any given week. Responsibility for investigating these spills falls on an agency that has seen staff levels reduced significantly. Expanding DEC’s workload to include determining party responsibilities in addition to site investigation and spill cleanup would reduce the agency’s ability to carry out its primary remediation function.
This bill also creates a liability limitation agreement between the polluter and the state, which allows the party responsible for the petroleum spill to get out of any other enforcement by the state if subsequent contamination is found at a later date. This is a serious problem because the chemical properties of petroleum allow it to move through the ground and groundwater, making it difficult to determine the extent of the spill right away. In the past, spills have leaked from covered pits to streams and larger water bodies. Such leaks could pollute drinking water supplies statewide.
This bill amends New York State Navigation Law by requiring the DEC to investigate the degree to which additional parties may be responsible for a petroleum spill, potentially delaying cleanup by as much as 30 days.