Dear Editor:

New Jersey’s Natural Resource Damages (NRD) program is an incredibly important and necessary program rising from the state’s history of incremental spills and discharges, as well as historic industrialization. 

NRD requires polluters to go beyond the mandated cleanup and to pay damages for restoration and compensation for the public loss of use of natural resources including habitat, species, water and land.

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New Jersey Audubon has worked extensively to protect habitats across the state and has been an advocate and responder in protecting wildlife, wetlands and other natural resources from oil spills. New Jersey Audubon supports this program because everyone can use our public resources, no matter if they are private individuals or companies, but not to the detriment of others. When that happens, compensation is required.

We believe that funds from this program must be used to restore natural resources where damage has been done. Money should flow to the same community where pollution took place, or through another nexus, such as a connected watershed, in lands that protect a water source used by the impacted community or by identifying a resource that is used by the impacted population.

This pot of money must not be raided, as it has been done over the years, to balance the state budget. We strongly support SCR39, a resolution now in the state Legislature, that ensures the money is protected to help affected communities who have suffered long enough.