Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) sent a letter today to both U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx requesting that they continue to assist New Jersey with receiving a critical supply of rock salt. They acknowledged both agencies’ role in securing maritime delivery of a 10,000-ton supplemental supply for the Garden State.
“The State of New Jersey has been among the hardest hit states this winter season, with more than 70 inches of snow accumulated in some parts of the state,” wrote the Senators. “The Governor has issued at least four state of emergency alerts. Several cities and municipalities are reporting shortages of rock salt, which has the potential to endanger motorists and the general public in future snow events.”
The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) reportedly filed a request with DHS on Feb. 13, 2014, to waive the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 under the national security exception and allow a foreign-flagged vessel to deliver more than 40,000 tons of rock salt from Maine to Port Newark. The federal law, commonly known as the Jones Act, has played a critical role in maintaining America’s strong maritime industry and requires ships carrying cargo between U.S. ports to be carried on U.S.-flagged vessels.
The Senators each first learned of the NJDOT’s emergent need from media reports on Friday, Feb. 14, and immediately instructed their respective staffs to contact DHS on behalf of New Jersey residents seeking a swift and favorable resolution. That same day, DHS confirmed to Senate staff that it is considering the State’s request for a waiver of the Jones Act.
“We urge your agencies to continue to assist the State of New Jersey to help procure and deliver rock salt for the purposes of public safety and security,” the Senators continued in the letter.
Sens. Menendez and Booker noted that states have been granted administrative waivers for the transport of energy resources in emergency situations.
Full text of the Senators’ letter can be downloaded here.