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(TRENTON) – An Assembly committee on Monday approved a package of bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats Connie Wagner, Reed Gusciora and Valerie Vainieri Huttle that would ban the controversial practice of ‘fracking’ – or hydraulic fracturing – in New Jersey and urge the federal government and surrounding states to follow suit.
“Fracking is a man-made disruption to the environment, many times on large-scale proportions,” said Wagner (D-Bergen). “We’ve already seen a number of eco-casualties from this practice in surrounding states. It would be irresponsible to leave the door open for this practice to be pursued in New Jersey.”
The bills were released by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.
The first bill (A-3653) would establish a moratorium on the practice of hydraulic fracturing in the State for the purpose of natural gas exploration or production until the United States Environmental Protection Agency has concluded its study and issues its findings on the drilling practice, and the Department of Environmental Protection determines that the findings warrant an end to the moratorium.
“We cannot expect to disrupt our environment and our ecosystems so drastically and not face any consequences,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer). “This is yet another reason why we need to continue our push towards renewable energy Dests.”
The sponsors noted that drilling connected with natural gas exploration along the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania caused concern.
The Marcellus Shale formation reaches beneath the southern tier of New York State, into Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, and touches the edge of northwestern New Jersey. It is one of the largest untapped fossil fuel reserves in the Western Hemisphere and there have been estimates for the area to yield as much as 20 times the current nationwide output of natural gas, but the gas is not easy to extract.
On June 5, 2010, hydraulic fracturing in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania caused an explosion and the release of many gallons of contaminated water and uncontrolled natural gas from the drill site.
“Fracking has the potential to unleash so many environmental and health safety concerns,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “With so much debate and study taking place right now, it would be wise, at the very least, to hold off until more conclusive evidence presents itself.”
The second measure (AJR-67) urges the Governors and the Legislatures of Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania to enact a moratorium against hydraulic fracturing in their respective states until the United States Environmental Protection Agency has concluded its study and issued its findings.
The third measure (AR-112) urges Congress and the President of the United States to enact H.R. No. 2766, known as the “Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009.” H.R. No. 2766 would repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing under the federal “Safe Drinking Water Act” and require disclosure of the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing.
During the last session of Congress, the bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, however, the bill has not yet been reintroduced this session.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held public hearings on the issue of hydrofracking in the late summer and fall of 2010, but no formal action has been taken yet. In early February, the EPA announced it was submitting its draft study plan on hydraulic fracturing for review to the agency’s Science Advisory Board.