Winter storms recently dumped nearly a foot of snow in parts of New Jersey. As of February 13, New Jersey state police had responded to 157 accidents and 353 calls for help, and road crews struggled to maintain safe driving conditions while faced with a shortage of rock salt to clear the roads.
New Jersey Senators Robert Menendez (D) and Cory Booker (D) issued the following joint statement: “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 dangerous shortage of rock salt is a result of a federal law known as the Jones Act, which prohibits foreign ships from transporting goods from one U.S. port to another. According to one report:
New Jersey has been unable to transport 40,000 tons of available road salt in Searsport, Maine in time to meet the urgent need here. Townsquare Media has learned federal help was actually refused, literally causing New Jersey’s road salt shipment to miss the boat. A foreign transport sitting ready to load in Searsport is now approaching Port Newark empty, because the Department of Homeland Security denied the state’s request for a waiver of the requirement for an American-flagged vessel.
That report quoted the head of New Jersey’s Department of Transportation as saying: “I’ve got a shipload of salt, 400 miles from here. The only thing that we’ve been able to define as an American flag vessel would take us a month to get the salt here when I can have the salt here in a day and a half.”
In another interview, he added: “We’ve been going back and forth with the feds.… This is the kind of stuff we’re dealing with. Even government, the federal government, gets in the way.”
In 2012, The Heritage Foundation suggested that the government terminate the Jones Act. At the time, the federal government temporarily waived the Jones Act in order to get shipments of fuel to the Northeast following Hurricane Sandy.
But the federal government failed to repeal the Jones Act, and as a result motorists in New Jersey now face ongoing hazardous road conditions. Hopefully, the failure of Congress and President Obama to repeal the Jones Act will not also result in unnecessary deaths for Northeast drivers.