TRENTON – The Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee released a bill to ban hydraulic fracturing. The vote was 4-1-1 along party lines with Republican Scott Rudder and Republican Holly Schepisi abstaining.
A567 would establish a permanent moratorium on the controversial gas exploration practice of hydraulic fracturing.
Democrat Celeste Riley commented that she was supporting the bill to release it from committee, but she did share some of the concerns expressed by opponents of the ban.
The bill was released the same day Democratic lawmakers announced they had sent to N.Y. Gov. Cuomo a letter urging him to ban fracking in that state. The letter is signed by 38th District Democratic lawmakers Sen. Robert Gordon and Assemblywoman Connie Wagner.
Jim Walsh of Food & Water Watch said Cuomo is expected to make a decision sometime this week. Pennsylvania already allows fracking, and although New Jersey does not permit it, environmentalists testified at recent hearings that Pennsylvania fracking waste – unmonitored and unchecked – is entering New Jersey already.
He told the panel that its vote could send a strong message to Cuomo.
“We can’t gamble with our drinking water,” said Dan DeRosa of Environment N.J.
And Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club said that if New York lifts its moratorium then the waters will start flowing with the fracking waste.
Industry witnesses disputed their contentions.
Jim Benton, executive director of the N.J. Petroleum Council, said the “availability of low-cost natural gas is a game-changer for our community.”
For the past four years in a row natural gas costs in the state have gone down, he said, adding that New Jersey already has benefitted environmentally from reduced emissions, and in terms of developing a secure domestic energy source.
Kevin Lynott of Elizabethtown Gas defended industry’s concern for the environment, saying it does not do anyone any good to leave a legacy of environmental damage.
And Ed Waters of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey said jobs are returning to the U.S. as a result of lower-energy costs.