Don’t Frack with Jersey

Well, it’s official.  You better not frack with New Jersey.  I already knew this of course, being from the notorious state.  But now it’s on the books.

Now you probably want to know the whole story, so you are in-the-know as you trek up the NJ Turnpike this summer.  Late Wednesday night, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill banning fracking (also called hydraulic fracturing) for natural gas.  It passed in the NJ Senate 33-1, and the NJ House 55-11.  Big statement.  Does New Jersey have vast reserves of natural gas?  No, not really.  This gesture is largely symbolic.  New Jersey is saying, “Don’t frack with our water!”

New Jersey gets a lot of its water from the Delaware River, which does have vast supplies of natural gas.  I’ve blogged about the regulations under development by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) in the past.  They are still in the process of reviewing and revising those requirements.  This move by the New Jersey legislature is meant to send a strong message to the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie (who may veto the bill), and the DRBC.  

A strong message also came to the DRBC from New York one month ago when the Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, sued the federal government for its failure to assess the potential environmental and health impacts of drilling in the Delaware River Basin before issuing regulations.  New York City gets its clean water from the Delaware River, so this was a critical move for the state.  The Attorney General demanded that the federal government comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to conduct a full review of actions that may cause significant environmental impacts.

American Rivers highlighted concern for the Upper Delaware River with our #1 Most Endangered River listing in 2010.  We are hopeful that the high level of caution and concern for natural gas development demonstrated by New York and New Jersey will lead to positive decisions for this river system.

In other New York fracking news— keep your eye out for the revised draft of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement for high-volume hydraulic fracturing from the NY Department of Environmental Conservation.  It should be coming out in the next week or so and will say a lot about the planned approach to natural gas development in New York.