New Jersey, Arkansas Latest States to Take up Fracking Regulation

More states are enacting or considering laws that would regulate the natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Most recently, the New Jersey State Senate passed a law that bans fracking there, while in Arkansas, legislators are considering three bills that would subject natural gas drillers to greater oversight.

The New Jersey fracking ban (S-2576) passed the Senate unanimously. For now, the vote is largely symbolic, as no fracking is taking place in the state. According to NJSpotlight.com, the fracking ban’s sponsor, Sen. Robert Gordon (D-Bergen), “sends a clear signal, the first signal as a state, that we have grave concerns” about the process.

But an official with the New Jersey Environmental Federation pointed out that while the New Jersey bill is a welcome development, the major issue facing the state is what the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) decides to do about fracking there. The basin, which encompasses parts of Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, supplies water to millions of people on the East Coast.

The DRBC was created in 1961 to address regional water conflicts, and oversees water quality and quantity issues in the 13,539-square-mile basin. The commission’s voting members include the governors of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The commission is in the process of drafting regulations that would govern how and where fracking could occur, but critics say the rules fall short of what is needed.

The DRBC estimates that there could one day be as many as 10,000 wells in the Delaware River Basin. Proponents of fracking in the Delaware River Basin argue it will bring much-need jobs and economic activity to the area. But those opposed are worried the drilling will foul vital water supplies.

In Arkansas, where wastewater injection wells used by frackers have been blamed for an increase in earthquake activity, legislators are looking at three different bills:

• HB 1392, sponsored by Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, would require annual inspections of gas wells.

• HB 1394, sponsored by Rep. Homer Lenderman, D-Jonesboro, would create regulations aimed at protecting water resources.

• HB 1395, also sponsored by Leding, would create regulations aimed at protecting air resources.

The bills’ sponsors deny that the adoption of such regulations in Arkansas would drive natural gas drillers away, as many other states where drilling is booming already have similar laws on the books.

Earlier this month, the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission ordered Chesapeake Energy and Clarita Operating to stop using two injection wells near the communities of Greenbrier and Guy to dispose of fracking wastewater. As we’ve reported previously, Arkansas has recently experienced a surge in seismic activity, including the biggest earthquake recorded by the state in more than three decade. Ninety percent of the earthquakes recorded in the state since 2009 have occurred within six kilometers of salt water disposal sites associated with fracking operation. The two injection wells targeted by the commission’s order are near a previously unknown or unmapped fault.

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