BY TOM HESTER SR.
Twenty-four environmental organizations submitted a letter to Gov. Chris Christie on Monday asking him to sign legislation prohibiting the use of hydraulic fracturing for the purpose of natural gas exploration or production in New Jersey.
The Legislature approved the proposal (S-2576/A-3313) by a large majority on June 29 and sent it to Christie for consideration.
Natural gas drilling is proceeding in Pennsylvania in the Marcellus Shale, a deep geologic formation that underlies much of Pennsylvania and a portion of New York, including areas located within the Delaware River Basin. Utica Shale, now also being explored by energy companies, is located beneath the Marcellus and can be found in northwestern New Jersey.
While no drilling in underway, environmentalists fear it could begin in the Utica Shale in the future.
Drillers must use hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to force the gas out of the tight shale formations. Fracking can cause water and air pollution, and water depletion due to the million of gallons of water required to frack. It also can lead to the degradation of streams, landscapes and habitat due to large scale of natural gas development.
In Pennsylvania, PADEP’s oil and gas program reported more than 11 violations of environmental permits per day by drillers so far in 2011, up from about 6 per day in 2010.
Kevin Roberts, Christie's assistant press secretary, said the legislation is under review.
"Like all pieces of pending legislation, it is receiving the careful review of our counsel’s office prior to the governor making a decision and taking action on the legislation," Roberts said.
“The New Jersey Legislature is standing up for clean water pro-actively by banning fracking in the state before it starts,” Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, said. “Now it is up to Governor Christie to make this smart preventive measure into law.”
“The more New Jersey residents know about fracking, the more they’re against it,” Doug O’Malley, Environment New Jersey field director, said. “The governor can send a clear message that he supports the state’s drinking water by signing this legislation as is. Fracking is a dangerous business, and the governor shouldn’t play a wait-and-see game to see if gas drillers develop a taste for the Garden State.”
"This letter is another sign of the growing support for a ban on fracking, a practice that poses unacceptable risk to public health, our drinking water and the environment," Jim Walsh, New Jersey director of Food & Water Watch, said. "Governor Christie can show true national leadership by being the first governor in the U.S. to sign a bill banning fracking."
“New Jersey can achieve economical protection of public health and the environment from the impacts of gas drilling by banning fracking here if Governor Christie takes the bold step to sign this Bill. Prevention of pollution is the most cost-effective action available to government, all the more so when irreplaceable resources can be lost,” Tracy Carluccio, Delaware Riverkeeper Network deputy director, added.