By David Cruz
The New Jersey Senate Environment Committee has moved a bill out of committee that would regulate the treatment, storage and disposal of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, the process known to many as fracking.
The bill that emerged from the Senate Environmental Committee proposes to ban an activity that no one can confirm or admit is occurring here. But the bill’s sponsor, Democrat Bob Gordon, says just because no one’s fracking here now, doesn’t mean they won’t try fracking here tomorrow, despite a one-year moratorium on the practice.
“There are geological structures in New Jersey that could potentially be major sources of natural gas that can’t be reached now but people who are familiar with the extraction of natural gas and oil know that it’s just a matter of time before the technologies are developed to exploit these areas,” said Gordon.
Right now, there’s no law, state or federal, to stop companies in Pennsylvania and New York that do use fracking from disposing of their waste in New Jersey. Environmentalists like Jim Walsh of Food & Water Watch say the legislation is necessary now because the highly toxic stew — which he says includes naturally occurring radioactive material — is already making its way around the state.
“We know that literally over 1.3 million gallons of fracking waste was brought to a facility in South Jersey,” said Walsh. “We also know that about 487 tons of waste were brought into a facility in Kearny and another 30,000 gallons of waste were brought to a facility in Carteret.”
We couldn’t independently confirm those claims but an industry spokesperson says no waste from hydraulic fracturing has been disposed of in New Jersey and that environmentalists are striking an alarmist chord.
“There really isn’t an active business model for bringing this fluid to New Jersey, nonetheless environmental groups have used this issue to try to drum up hostility against this type of domestic, secure, clean energy being brought to the Garden State,” said Jim Benton, executive director of the New Jersey Petrochemical Council, which is opposed to the bill.
Benton says New Jersey water treatment facilities are subject to strict regulations and that stories about radioactive wastewater making its way into water treatment facilities — and potentially our drinking water — are myth, making the Senate bill moot. But Gordon says he expects fracking to be a reality on the Jersey side of the Delaware River Basin before too long.
“I think it’s just a matter of time before it happens and I thought it would be best to take these preemptive steps,” said Gordon. “If you drill, you’ll get the waste and I think the drilling would come to New Jersey.”
The bill has bi-partisan support and sponsors, but just in case, environmentalists say they’re going to show up at the State House on Thursday to express their support for the bill and to urge the governor to show his, by signing it.