Fracking opposition bill clears Senate committee

TRENTON – The Senate Environment and Energy Committee has advanced, again, the anti-hydraulic fracturing bill.

The legislation, conditionally vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie in the last legislative session in favor of a one-year moratorium, again cleared the committee. The vote was 5-0.

Sponsor Sen. Robert Gordon, (D-38), Fair Lawn, said this morning that a one-year moratorium “is not very meaningful.’’ It can take a year simply to get permits, Gordon said. “New Jersey needs to go beyond moratoria.’’

Hess, he pointed out, reportedly has invested $750 million in the Utica Shale, part of which underlies Warren and Sussex counties in northern New Jersey. Companies don’t invest that kind of money without an expectation of being able to pursue the gas exploration process, Gordon said, and with national studies on the consequences of “fracking’’ not due until 2014, New Jersey needs to act now.

The arguments have been heard by the committee before. Industry forces talked of the domestic energy savings that “fracking’’ will spur; environmentalists talked of the numerous “fracking’’ permits Pennsylvania is issuing and the already-documented instances of environmental contamination there.

Industry witnesses talked of “best practices’’ that are in use and said that the bad cases amount to a small percentage of the number of wells being sunk. Environmentalists countered that there is no fail-safe technology, and cited recent reports of leaking methane. Fracking opposition bill clears Senate committee