The Legislature on Monday gave the final okay to a measure sponsored by Assembly Democrats Connie Wagner, Reed Gusciora and Valerie Vainieri Huttle that will institute a temporary ban on the controversial gas drilling practice known as “fracking,” which has recently been linked to a series of earthquakes in the Midwest.
The legislature initially passed the measure (A-3313) in June, creating a permanent ban on fracking in New Jersey. The Governor conditionally vetoed the measure in August, calling for a temporary 12 month moratorium on the practice while the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) investigates the practice.
“Everyone agrees we have to work to find alternative energy Dests and reduce our reliance on foreign oil, but I don’t see how anyone can support pumping chemical-laced water into the ground,” said Wagner (D-Bergen). “From earthquakes to flammable drinking water, evidence on the potential hazards of fracking continues to mount. Absent a total ban, I support this temporary moratorium so that state and federal experts can continue to study the issue more closely.”
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a type of natural gas drilling that can endanger drinking water by blasting water diluted chemicals into shale rock, breaking it apart to free natural gas.
“We have too many unanswered questions about this process,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer) “Our drinking water is precious, especially in highly built out areas like most of New Jersey. Short of an outright ban, this will at least buy us more time to investigate the potential this process might have to endanger public health and safety.”
The bill, as amended today, will impose a 12 month ban on hydraulic fracturing in New Jersey and also direct the DEP to conduct an investigation into whether hydraulic fracturing could have or is likely to have an adverse impact on air and water quality in New Jersey.
“Fracking merits serious concern based on the experiences of other states,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “The more we learn about this practice the more we see significant environmental and health-related risks.”
The sponsors noted that experts have linked recent earthquakes in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Ohio to the fracking process. Earlier this year, more than a dozen families in Susquehanna County, Pa., have filed a lawsuit against the Southwestern Energy Production Company, asserting that a succession of “releases, spills and discharges of combustible gases, hazardous chemicals and industrial wastes” from the company’s nearby drilling sites had contaminated their drinking water and made them sick. YouTube videos even depict residents being able to set their tap water aflame in areas where fracking is occurring.
The measure, which was approved in the Assembly by a vote of 72-1-1, now heads back to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.