Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 31, 2015

Booker, Menendez Ask Feds for Help With Salt Shortage

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Heavy snow and ice has Booker and Menendez calling for more rock salt.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

New Jersey’s senators are seeking federal help to alleviate a shortage of rock salt prompted by the abundance of ice and snow.

Specifically, Democrats Robert Menendez and Cory Booker want federal officials to waive the Jones Act, a 1920 Maritime law that bars certain foreign-flagged vessels from U.S. ports. A foreign vessel was transporting rock salt to Newark.

Menendez and Booker have asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx for a “swift review” of the request by the state of New Jersey for the Jones Act waiver.

“As you are aware, 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. The Governor has issued at least four state of emergency alerts,” the senators wrote Tuesday. “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. Reports indicate the state will see additional snow accumulation this week. The shortage of rock salt is truly a critical national need.”

States throughout the Northeast have been warning of potential salt shortages given the number of ice and snow storms this season.

The text of the letter appears below:

Dear Secretary Johnson and Secretary Foxx:

Thank you for your assistance in working with the State of New Jersey to identify maritime transportation for the delivery of a 10,000 ton supplemental supply of rock salt, with a commitment of additional assistance. We urge the Administration to explore every possible avenue to assist the State.

As you are aware, 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. 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. Reports indicate the state will see additional snow accumulation this week. The shortage of rock salt is truly a critical national need.

We understand that on February 13, 2014, the New Jersey Department of Transportation filed a request with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to waive the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 in order to allow a foreign-flagged vessel to transport more than 40,000 tons of rock salt to Port Newark. Recognizing that such waivers require an interagency review of the national security merits of the waiver request, we appreciate the Administration’s swift review.

We urge your agencies to continue to assist the State of New Jersey in the procurement and delivery of rock salt for the purposes of public safety and security. Thank you for your consideration.

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