Coalition pushes for hydraulic fracturing

TRENTON – No sooner had Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a measure that would have banned hydraulic fracturing gas exploration in New Jersey than a coalition of pro-fracking advocates launched an effort today on behalf of the controversial practice.

Christie issued a one-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, during which time supporters such as the Natural Gas for New Jersey coalition hope to convince lawmakers and the public that the process can be safe and cost-effective.

“We’re bringing together business and professional groups that support clean energy in the Garden State,’’ said John Harmon, president and CEO of the African-American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.

Some of the other member organizations include the N.J. Petroleum Council, Chemistry Council of New Jersey, and the state Chamber of Commerce.

Businesses and consumers in the state rely on affordable natural gas obtained safely, the coalition leaders said.  The one-year moratorium, they said in launching their effort today, will give the state time to ensure responsible oversight of a process that will create jobs and reduce energy costs.

Hal Bozarth, executive director of the Chemistry Council, said that although there isn’t much in the way of natural gas exploration in New Jersey now, the Marcellus Shale field in Pennsylvania could be a “significant game changer,’’ especially for manufacturers who depend on raw materials that need natural gas and who are now paying electricity rates that are 74 percent higher than the national average.

Domestically produced natural gas can reduce overseas dependencies and cut down on lengthy transmissions from the Gulf Coast, advocates said.

Responding to concerns environmentalists raise, Harmon said, “This is why the conditional veto makes sense.” It gives the state time, he said, to take a look at the science. “Cooler heads will prevail.’’

The big fear, Bozarth said, is that an outright ban on hydraulic fracturing would have sent signals to the marketplace that there are significant problems with extraction of gas deposits. “We are afraid that would push up the cost of natural gas, which had been declining,’’ Bozarth said. Coalition pushes for hydraulic fracturing