Monday, March 7, 2011

COA offers testimony against Hydraulic-Fracturing (fracking)

Today, in Trenton, the New Jersey Assembly’s Environment and Solid Waste Committee, led by Assemblyman and Deputy-Speaker John F. McKeon (D), is considering a bill and two resolutions on “Hydraulic-Fracturing” (a.k.a., “fracking”). 

A3653 is a bill that establishes a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for purpose of natural gas
exploration or production until (1) the EPA completes its assessment of the water quality impacts of fracking (expected in early 2012), and (2) the NJDEP commissioner reads the report and concludes, officially and on the record that the New Jersey moratorium should be lifted.

If Assembly Joint Resolution 67 passes, it would be a statement from the NJ Legislature urging Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania to enact moratorium against hydraulic fracturing until EPA concludes its study and issues its findings on that drilling practice.

In a resolution directed at the U.S. Congress, Assembly Resolution 112 urges the enactment of H.R. No. 2766, known as the “Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009” – a proposed bill from the last Congressional Session co-sponsored by, among 69 others, New Jersey Representatives Holt, Pallone, and Rothman.  Primarily, this bill would overturn long-standing exemptions from environmental and public health-related laws that the natural gas industry has, including the Safe Drinking Water Act. 

In Trenton, Clean Ocean Action has submitted the following testimony to the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee on these bills:

Clean Ocean Action supports the passage of the three hydraulic-fracturing bills and resolutions pending before the New Jersey Legislature.  A3653 is a bill that would have our state responsibly protected from the unknown by not allowing “fracking” until we know its impacts on water quality.  AJR 67 and AR 112 are resolutions that similarly ask that we learn what’s at stake before we move forward with new natural gas production using hydro-fracking.  We stand at an energy-policy crossroads in New Jersey, and the failures of the past (in exempting fracking from almost any regulation or oversight) should not continue into the future.  Clean Ocean Action asks that you pass these bills to stop fracking from continuing while the EPA is completing its impact analysis.  Our oceans and coasts are fed by the water systems that are increasingly threatened by mixed-chemical fracking projects.  In order to protect downstream ecosystems, the region must allow the EPA to complete its assessment of fracking water impacts.

There are safe ways to produce natural gas, and many operators follow these practices, but there are documented risks associated with fracking.  These risks threaten downstream and coastal ecosystems with contamination by an unknown quality and quantity of chemicals and toxins.  Before fracking projects are licensed by the state or in the region, these impacts must be quantified and traced to their sources.  Like any other industrial project, we must understand all the risks of fracking before we jump onboard – these NJ Legislature bills and resolutions speak to this need for knowledge. 

The Delaware Riverkeeper and Food and Water Watch have been active and vocal in this initiative and in proceedings before the Delaware River Basin Commission on fracking rules.

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