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State Laws in New Jersey and New York

The Athros I spilling oil into the Delaware River

Photo Credit: Delaware Estuary Watershed Mapping
& Database Project


New Jersey State law prohibits the discharge of oil into the environment.

New Jersey’s Spill Compensation and Control Act (N.J.S.A 58:10-23.11) states that the discharge of petroleum products and other hazardous substances within or outside the jurisdiction of New Jersey constitutes a threat to the economy and environment of this State and sets fines and reporting requirements.

This law requires that all discharges of oil and other hazardous materials be immediately reported to the NJDEP HOTLINE at 1-877-WARNDEP (1-877-927-6337).

All facilities and individuals in New Jersey, even homeowners, are subject to these reporting requirements. Failure to report spills to the NRC and the NJDEP may result in civil administrative penalties.

The law in New Jersey was further strengthened following an oil spill from the Athos I, which struck a submerged anchor near Paulsboro, New Jersey, in 2004.

The Athos I spilled approximately 256,000 gallons of crude oil into the Delaware River, affecting nearly one hundred and fifteen miles of shoreline in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The Port of Philadelphia, one of the busiest in the country, was also shut down for three days.

In the wake of this environmental disaster, citizens and lawmakers called for tougher fines and penalties for oil spills in New Jersey waters.

In 2005, the New Jersey legislature raised the cap on liability to $1,200 per gross ton for vessels, with a maximum of $50 million per incident.


The New York Oil Spill Law, created in 1977, regulates all unlawful discharges of petroleum in New York State.

Discharge is defined as both intentional and unintentional releasing, spilling, and leaking of a petroleum product into land or water.

Polluters are liable for all cleanup and removal costs as well as for damages.

There is no third-party defense. Individuals can be held liable for not preventing a spill and for not beginning immediate cleanup efforts. Fines can run up to $25,000 a day for violating these laws.

To report a chemical or oil spill in New York State, call the Department of Environmental Conservation’s 24 Hour Spill Hotline at 1-800-457-7362 (within NY State) or 518-457-7362 (outside NY State).