‘Fracking’ foes hand in 20,000-signature petition

TRENTON – Opponents of hydraulic fracturing are not giving up the fight.

A coalition of environmental, religious, labor and business groups delivered a petition today to the governor’s office that they said carried more than 20,000 signatures in opposition to allowing wastewater from hydraulic fracturing to be treated in New Jersey.

A bill, A575, that would prohibit so-called “fracking” waste from being delivered, treated or stored in the state awaits action by Gov. Chris Christie.

In addition to the petition, opponents delivered a letter from more than 50 state lawmakers who want the bill signed into law. It would make New Jersey the first state in the nation to take such action.

Also, the coalition pointed to a recent study by Stony Brook University that says the contamination risk of wastewater disposal is much greater than previously believed.

“Even in a best-case scenario,’’ reads the study in part, “there is a 99 percent probability that water will be polluted with at least 200 cubic meters of contaminated fracking wastewater for every fracked well that is processed through a water treatment facility.”

The study concluded that the danger of contamination from hydraulic fracturing is greatest from the wastewater disposal process, rather than from the fracturing gas exploration process itself.

Representatives of Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Food & Water Watch, N.J. Sierra Club, and Waterspirit reiterated their oft-stated positions that the bill on the governor’s desk has bipartisan support, and that the clock is running on New Jersey.

They said Pennsylvania is producing billions of gallons of fracking wastewater without adequate treatment options, and New Jersey plants are not designed to handle all of the toxic chemicals that could be in the wastewater.

“New Jersey is a sitting duck,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Riverkeeper Network.

Clean water is essential to three of the state’s major industries: tourism, pharmaceuticals and food processing, according to Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club. “You can’t make Budweiser with fracking waste,’’ he said.

In addition to awaiting Christie’s decision, the coalition is also watching the Delaware River Basin Commission, which has a moratorium on fracking in place but at some point may schedule a vote on whether to lift the moratorium in the 13,500-square-mile basin. And they are awaiting a decision from New York’s governor about the fate of fracking in that state.

Last year, Christie vetoed a similar bill, but the coalition believes the scientific evidence, public opposition and political pressure have increased.

“The governor needs to stand with the people of New Jersey for clean water,” said Jim Walsh, regional director of Food & Water Watch.

‘Fracking’ foes hand in 20,000-signature petition