More snow is en route to the Garden State on Tuesday, Save Jerseyans, but thanks to an archaic quirk of federal law, we may be going into it without sufficient road salt.
The real question is whether partisan politics is entering into the equation, too…
Long story short, a shipment of salt is stuck at a Maine seaport because of the 94-year old Merchant Marine Act of 1920 or “Jones Act” which demands, in part, that all goods moved between U.S. ports be transported by way of United States flag ships that were both built in the United States and owned, staffed, and operated by American citizens and permanent residents:
46 USC § 50101 – Objectives and policy (a) Objectives.— It is necessary for the national defense and the development of the domestic and foreign commerce of the United States that the United States have a merchant marine— (1) sufficient to carry the waterborne domestic commerce and a substantial part of the waterborne export and import foreign commerce of the United States and to provide shipping service essential for maintaining the flow of the waterborne domestic and foreign commerce at all times; (2) capable of serving as a naval and military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency; (3) owned and operated as vessels of the United States by citizens of the United States; (4) composed of the best-equipped, safest, and most suitable types of vessels constructed in the United States and manned with a trained and efficient citizen personnel; and (5) supplemented by efficient facilities for building and repairing vessels. (b) Policy.— It is the policy of the United States to encourage and aid the development and maintenance of a merchant marine satisfying the objectives described in subsection (a).
Fair enough. Misguided protectionism? Sure, but what else is new?
The curious part: the Obama Administration refused to grant New Jersey’s request for a waiver per NJDOT but it didn’t adopt such a discriminating posture back in 2012 when Governor Cuomo of New York wanted one. “The administration’s highest priority is ensuring the health and safety of those impacted by Hurricane Sandy and this waiver will remove a potential obstacle to bringing additional fuel to the storm-damaged region,” then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said at the time.
New Jersey didn’t earn the same accommodation back during our Sandy-related North Jersey fuel shortage.
At least one state legislator wants to know what’s up.
“After the recent serious accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, we know the importance of having salt to treat roads rises to the level of life and death,” complained Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union, Somerset and Morris) in a Sunday evening press release. “We need immediate help from the federal government granting the necessary waiver to transport the salt from Maine. This shipment will help keep our roads safe and save lives.”
Bramnick echoed his concerns during a Sunday appearance in Middlesex County, and he’s expected to host a GOP Assembly presser on Monday morning to bring attention to the issue.
Three words: Chicago-style politics.