TRENTON - New Jersey is moving toward making polluters pay the full cost of cleaning up offshore spills.

A bill to remove a cap on liability for oil and other spills into coastal waters was passed Monday by the state Senate and was sent to the Assembly's Environment and Solid Waste Committee for further action.

The current cap, passed in 1976, is $65 million in damages. That wouldn't cover the cost of a BP-type spill off the New Jersey coast, said Jeff Tittel, chapter director at the Sierra Club, a national environmental organization.

"If we don't raise the liability cap, instead of the polluters paying, the taxpayers will," Tittel said.

"We believe this legislation is an important step forward in protecting our coasts from oil spills," he said. "If companies know they'll have to pay for damages, they may do things in a safer way." President Obama's administration said this month that it would not open new areas of the Atlantic seaboard and eastern Gulf of Mexico to drilling.