By most accounts, New Jersey doesn’t have enough natural gas to warrant the controversial underground drilling known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking for short. What the state can offer, environmentalists fear, is a dumping ground for the carcinogenic waste that results from the process.
On Friday, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bipartisan bill to ban the processing of fracking fluid and wastewater in New Jersey plants. The bill, which was passed by both the State Senate and Assembly, is unconstitutional, he claimed, counter to the argument of state legislators who passed it because it is constitutional to not allow companies to dispose of waste in New Jersey.
The veto caused a furor among environmentalists and prompted concerns from disappointed locals who believe Christie is putting the state’s water supply and residents at risk with his decision. In Red Bank, both the Environmental Commission and Council publicly approved the anti-fracking waste bill when it passed the state Legislature and encouraged Christie to sign into law soon after.
Ultimately, Christie decided it was not in the state’s best interest.
“It is disappointing that the Governor vetoed a widely-supported bill and chose commerce over the safety of our water supply,” Red Bank Environmental Commission Chairwoman Laura Bagwell said in an email Tuesday. “Grave concerns exist about the ability of treatment plants to safely filter out all of the contaminants that exist in fracking wastewater.”
Fracking is the process of extracting natural gas from thousands of feet underground by pumping fracking fluid into shale. The fracking causes the shale to crack, which then results in the release of natural gas. The fluid used in fracking is part water and chemicals and is radioactive and known to contain carcinogens.
The issue with disposal is that, in New Jersey at least, no processing plants have the tools necessary to properly filter the contaminated waste. Fracking wastewater has been transported to and treated in New Jersey at least twice, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
In June, the bills banning fracking waste from being treated in New Jersey were passed by the Assembly 56-19-1-4 and the Senate 30-5-5, respectively. State Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-11, voted to approve the fracking wastewater ban. She was joined by Assembly Representatives Declan O’Scanlon, R-13, and Caroline Casagrande, R-11.
Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini, R-11, voted against the ban.
Environmental Commission Vice Chair Andres Simonson isn't completely certain that fracking and fracking wastewater treatment needs to be banned in New Jersey, though he said the procedure needs to be handled responsibly.
The bill isn’t dead yet. Bagwell and others are calling on the legislator to override the governor’s veto.
“Given the critical importance of protecting our drinking water and waterways of NJ from pollution,” Bagwell wrote. “I strongly encourage the Legislature to override the Governor's veto. This is a critical time for New Jersey.”