Pollution Settlement Nets $2 Million For New Jersey Parks
Checks totaling $2 million to the National Park Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in New Jersey by the U.S. Attorney’s office. The money came from the settlement of criminal charges against Evergreen International ocean shipping company for purposefully discharging oil in U.S. waters.
All of the $2 million is dedicated for use at U.S. Department of Interior facilities in New Jersey, with $1 million going to the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area in Monmouth County, and $500,000 to both the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Ocean County and the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge in Cape May County.
The money comes from a total criminal fine of $25 million paid by Evergreen International, S.A., one of the world’s largest cargo shipping lines, as part of a settlement of criminal charges to which the company pleaded guilty on April 4 in federal court in Los Angeles.
Of the $25 million, $10 million was directed to environmental community service projects in each of five judicial districts with major maritime ports frequented by Evergreen vessels.
Each of the five districts–Newark, Los Angeles, Portland, Or., Seattle and Charleston, S.C.–received $2 million. “We are pleased that the United States Attorney’s Office has directed $1 million to the National Park Foundation (NSF) for the benefit of Gateway National Recreation Area as part of this settlement,” said Hedrick Belin, Senior Director, Field Development at the National Park Foundation. The funds, Belin said, will be used to help protect native plants, to conduct habitat restoration at Sandy Hook and also to educate the public about Sandy Hook.
“These funds will go a long way toward mitigating the environmental impacts of the illegal dumping and bringing additional benefits to the fish, wildlife and communities that were affected,” said Tom Kelsch, Regional Director for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). “The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is pleased to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in using these funds to protect important coastal habitat for New Jersey’s fish and wildlife.”
Half of the $1 million to the NFWF will be used to support acquisition of over 300 acres of critical wetland and forested habitat at Cape May National Wildlife Refuge in Cape May County.
The land is important to numerous species of migratory shorebirds, including red knots, as well as waterfowl, raptors and other imperiled species.
The other $500,000 to the NFWF will be used to purchase approximately 120 acres of important upland dune and shrub habitat to be included within the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Ocean County.
The property was slated for development but through this acquisition will be preserved and managed to enhance it value to waterfowl and other wildlife. Both of the foundations are charitable non-profit organizations established by acts of Congress to “further the conservation of natural, scenic, historic, scientific, educational, inspirational or recreational resources for future generations of Americans.”
The investigation of Evergreen ships and companies began in March 2001 after the discovery of approximately 500 gallons of oil in the Columbia River in Washington. Through vessel traffic reports, the U.S. Coast Guard traced the spill to an Evergreen container ship, which had discharged the oil. Investigators subsequently discovered a bypass pipe used by crew members on another Evergreen vessel used to illegally discharge waste oil into the ocean.
The investigation led the Coast Guard, criminal investigators from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other law enforcement to inspect other Evergreen-owned and operated vessels. Other ships were then found to have used oil bypass equipment to regularly discharge oil into U.S. Waters.
Evergreen ships frequented Port Newark, and the investigation found that the ships presented falsified oil discharge logs to authorities. The Evergreen investigation was conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard, the EPA Criminal Investigations Division, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.
Provided by the Environmental News Service.