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New Jersey Senators Defend Jones Act in Salt Shortage Crisis

Mike Schuler
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February 26, 2014

New Jersey Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) have released a joint-statement today in defense of the Jones Act after it was wrongfully blamed for a shortage of road salt in New Jersey.

In recent weeks, the Jones Act has once again come under fire over the misinformation that it was preventing a 40,000 ton shipment of rock salt located in Searsport, Maine from reaching New Jersey where successive winter storms have left the state with critically low supplies.

The U.S. maritime industry has been quick to refute claims by state officials and the media that the Jones Act has prevented the shipment, saying instead that any salt shortages can be blamed on poor planning on behalf of the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

SEE ALSO: AMP: Don’t Blame the Jones Act for New Jersey Salt Shortage, Blame the State!

Now, Senators Booker and Mendez have released a statement regarding the shortage, backing up the maritime industry’s defense that the Jones Act is not where we should be pointing fingers.

It’s important also to point out that, according to reports in the media, the first shipment of salt, approximately 9,500 tons from the stockpile in Maine, arrived at the Port of Newark on Monday via barge, with more to come.

“What has become clear is that the State Department of Transportation has fallen short in planning for and addressing its dwindling salt supply,” commented Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker in a joint statement.

“There were numerous opportunities to enlist our help, including at least one direct conversation with Commissioner Simpson, in which the apparent salt crisis wasn’t even mentioned. In the face of an emergency, citizens of New Jersey expect its officials to do everything possible to protect the public from potential harm and in this case, the State fell short.”

The full joint-statement from Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) is below:

We are pleased to hear that the first shipment of rock salt arrived at Port Newark last night. When we first heard about the emergent nature of the State’s salt shortage in media reports, we immediately contacted the appropriate federal agencies on behalf of the health, safety and well-being of New Jersey residents seeking help in expediting procurement and delivery of much needed rock salt.

What has become clear is that the State Department of Transportation has fallen short in planning for and addressing its dwindling salt supply. There were numerous opportunities to enlist our help, including at least one direct conversation with Commissioner Simpson, in which the apparent salt crisis wasn’t even mentioned. In the face of an emergency, citizens of New Jersey expect its officials to do everything possible to protect the public from potential harm and in this case, the State fell short.

It is our understanding that NJDOT’s request to waive the Jones Act was denied because it was determined that American vessels were readily available to transport the salt from Maine to New Jersey, a development we were glad to help facilitate and expedite.

We stand ready to act and to advocate for our fellow New Jerseyans at the federal level, but can only do so when we are informed of a potential issue. It doesn’t matter if it’s John Q. Public, a local mayor or in this case, the State. Had offers for help not been ignored, we could have worked in partnership, provided appropriate guidance on the best way to achieve their intended goal, and most likely avoided this unnecessary situation.

We would caution those who would recklessly call for the abolition of the Jones Act, which has served for nearly a century to protect our national and economic security. The Merchant Marine Act of 1920—which prohibits use of a foreign-flagged vessel for transporting goods between U.S. ports—was designed to support America’s strong shipping industry, while ensuring our country’s readiness to defend itself against a national security threat.

The lesson learned here should not be to repeal or blame the Jones Act, but to work in partnership to achieve a common goal. The State’s poor planning should not become New Jersey residents’ emergency.

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