Friday, July 1, 2011

NJ bans fracking. NY un-bans it. PA skips a frack tax

What a difference a state makes.

Within several days of each other, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania reacted, respectively, to the controversial natural gas extraction technique of hydrofracturing (fracking) by:
           1. banning it;
           2. un-banning it, and
           3. letting it proceed unabated and untaxed.

In New Jersey, lawmakers in both houses passed and sent to the governor legislation that would prohibit the use of fracking anywhere in New Jersey.

That's a bit less courageous than it might sound since God didn't see fit to locate the gas-rich Marcellus Shale underneath the state.

Bill sponsors argue, however, that other layers of shale do lie below NJ, and it's just a matter of time before the gas industry comes poking around.

In New York, the state DEC announced it would lift its current moratorium on natural gas drilling, as it released recommendations
for state regulations that call for:

  • A fracking ban in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds
  • No fracking within 500 feet of an aquifer
  • A ban on surface drilling on state-owned land; and 
  • Strict regulation of fracturing on privately held lands.

In Pennsylvania, where legislation to ban fracking has never gotten even inches off the ground, and where drilling on private and public land is turning some sections of the state into swiss cheese, the GOP-controlled legislature dropped plans to vote on a bill to impose 'impact fees' on shale gas wells.

Lawmakers backed down immediately after Republican Gov. Tom Corbett huffed and puffed that he'd veto any such attempt.

What will be interesting to watch now is whether New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will veto the fracking ban bill that's been dropped on his desk.

Signing it will only further inflame environmentalists, already enraged by the governor's decision to pull the state out of RGGI, a regional compact set up to combat climate-altering carbon emissions.

With no drilling taking place, his signature would be an easy way to avoid an unneeded controversy. But controversy is Christie's middle name.

It's something to look forward to in July as news-making slides into its summer slumber.

Tell us what you think about hydrofracturing and the divergent approaches to regulation taken by New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.  Use the comment box below. If one isn't visible, click on the tiny 'comments' line to open it. 

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