Certain natural gas drilling measures advance

Three proposals that seek to delay a particular type of natural gas drilling in New Jersey cleared the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee Monday.

A3653, which would establish a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, AJR67, which urges neighboring states to also enact a moratorium, and AR112, which urges enacting  of HR 2766,  the “Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009,” all cleared the committee.

The measures, sponsored by Assemblywoman Connie Wagner, (D-38), of Paramus, among others, essentially take the position that industry and some states are rushing into this type of natural gas exploration before the consequences have been evaluated and before standards are in place.

A3653 – the Senate version is S2582 – urges adoption of a moratorium in New Jersey until the EPA concludes its study and issues findings on the practice of hydraulic fracturing.

AJR67 urges Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York to enact a similar moratorium, and AR112 urges Congress to enact the “Fracturing Responsibility” law, which requires full disclosure of chemicals used in the process, and would repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing that exists under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The arguments before the committee split along the divide of environmental groups and industry groups.

“We know it creates jobs,” Wagner said of the drilling. “We don’t want to sacrifice clean water” in the process, she argued.

Alison Mitchell, policy director of the N.J. Conservation Foundation, said “The impact is potentially catastrophic” of unchecked hydraulic fracturing.

On the other side of the issue, industry argued that the process has been in use for years and proven safe. 

Ed Waters of the N.J. Chemistry Council said that “the ability to create jobs relies on a stable, cheap supply of natural gas.”

And Jim Benton, executive director of the N.J. Petroleum Council, argued that 99.5 percent of what comes up in the drilling is water and sand.

However, the N.J. Sierra Club argued that drilling in the Marcellus Shale releases chemicals such as mercury and arsenic that are trapped in the shale. Certain natural gas drilling measures advance