Friday, March 11, 2011

Second NJ committee backs anti-fracking legislation

On Monday, the Assembly committee that handles environmental legislation in New Jersey released a bill that would impose a moratorium on the use of  hydrofracturing (fracking) to extract natural gas in New Jersey. Yesterday, the Senate's environmental committee upped the ante by releasing a bill that imposes an outright ban on fracking.

But the committee scratched a scheduled bill that would have forced New Jersey's representative on the Delaware River Basin Commission to oppose that multi-state agency's proposed rules that allow for the use of the hydrofracturing drilling technique.    

At the beginning of yesterday's meeting of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, chairman Bob Smith announced that the committee would not be taking up Senator Robert Gordon's DRBC bill,S-2575.
Smith said that Gordon had decided to reintroduce the bill as a Senate Resolution that would express the intent of the Senate to all members of the DRBC.  That might sound impressive, but resolutions have little or no significance in the legislative arena.

In pulling his original bill, Gordon will avoid a fight with Republican members of the Legislature who would oppose putting GOP Governor Chris Christie in the position of either vetoing the bill or clashing with Pennsylvania's Republican governor Tom Corbett who wants no curbs on natural gas drilling in his state. (See: NJ environmental committee backs anti-fracking bills)

Instead, the committee took up Gordon's S-2576, that bans the use of hydrofracturing in New Jersey. The bill has no practical effect in the state which does not overlie the natural-gas-rich Marcellus Shale, If adopted, however, it would send a strong signal of concern about the drilling technique--one that is facing growing criticism regionally and in Congress.   

The gas Industry (NJ Petroleum Council) and natural gas end users (Chemistry Council of New Jersey) opposed Gordon's fracking ban bill, as they had opposed the fracking moratorium bill A-3653 on Monday in the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.

There was plenty of testimony in favor of the measure from individuals and environmental organizations, including the NJ Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, Delaware Riverkeeper Network NJ Conservation Foundation, NJ Environmental Lobby and Environment New Jersey.

You can listen to all the testimony here. 

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