New Jersey lawmakers are in support of a new piece of legislation aiming to put a permanent ban to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling for natural gas in the state.
According to Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, the move follows a vote last year on a similar measure. When legislators in Trenton voted to pass a ban on any fracking drilling in the state, it was followed by a conditional veto by Gov. Chris Christie which turned that into a one-year moratorium on drilling.
Despite insistence by lawmakers, Gov. Christie has again criticized the move. The Republican governor told the press he doesn’t understand the importance of passing bans on fracking activity because he claims no company has eyes for exploring gas drilling in the state. New Jersey sits atop a small and easternmost portion of the Marcellus shale formation, thought to contain billions of dollars in natural gas reserves hidden in the underground rock.
Drilling is prevalent in neighboring Pennsylvania and a moratorium on drilling has recently been lifted in New York. There, residents fear widespread and localized fracking drilling is putting fresh water supplies to millions of people at risk and dozens of property owners believe ongoing drilling has already contaminated their water wells and ground water supplies with some of the harmful chemicals and agents used in the drilling process, namely methane gas, benzene and diesel fuel.
Fracking involves ushering hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh water, sand, a mix of at least 600 chemicals and a drilling through an underground horizontal well until it reaches the shale formation about two miles below the surface. The rock is broken apart, releasing natural gas which is collected back at the surface. Poorly constructed wells and overall question marks as to whether the process can be conducted safely have led to methane gas contamination at wells within a mile or two of active wells and have forced some residents, especially in Pennsylvania, to seek alternative sources of fresh water.
Lawmakers in New Jersey are looking to avoid the problems faced by residents of Pennsylvania and other states where regulations for fracking are as lax as federal rules, which allow almost unchecked drilling, letting fracking companies to operate without disclosing fully the chemicals and other agents used in the process.
Again voicing his opposition to the second proposed ban on fracking drilling, Gov. Christie said the state should conduct its own investigation into the safety of the drilling process before voting to outlaw it.
The Delaware River Basin Commission, on which Christie serves through his role as a governor in state in the basin, voted recently to postpone passing new drilling regulations in that specific area – including parts of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania – due to increased pressure from environmental groups seeking a ban on fracking in the environmentally sensitive area.
New Jersey is a densely populated area and any complications with fracking drilling similar to those suffered in other states has the potential to impact the fresh water supply to millions of people.