Christie Urged to Sign Fracking Bills
Red Bank Environmental Commission endorses bill, which passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, that would ban the transportation and dumping of fracking fluid in New Jersey.
Gov. Chris Christie is being urged to sign dual bills currently before his desk that would ban water treatment facilities in New Jersey from accepting wastewater used in hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking.
At its regular meeting Tuesday night, the Red Bank Environmental Commission signed its support to a letter calling for Christie to sign two bills into law that would prohibit the treatment, discharge, disposal, or storage of wastewater and other byproducts caused by natural gas drilling.
Red Bank Council is likely to add itself to a list of local support through resolution at its meeting tonight, Wednesday.
The bills, which passed both the state Senate and Assembly with bipartisan support in June, would effectively end the possibility of natural gas drilling in New Jersey and eliminate the potential for neighboring states, specifically Pennsylvania, from transporting potentially dangerous wastewater into the state. Though New Jersey isn’t believed to have significant amounts of natural gas available through fracking of its own, residents and legislators here alike have been fighting to stop the proposed drilling of the Delaware River basin in Pennsylvania.
The Delaware provides drinking water to 15 million people. Fracking fluid and fracking wastewater contain known carcinogens, and could leech into drinking water, opponents of the practice fear.
The concern is considered legitimate enough that the two bills, A575 and S253, passed the Assembly by a margin of 56-19-1-4 and the state Senate 30-5-5, respectively. Locally, State Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-11, voted to approve the fracking wastewater ban. She was joined by Assembly Representatives Declan O’Scanlon, R-13, and Caroline Casagrande, R-11.
Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini, R-11, voted against the ban.
Despite the bipartisan support of the bills, Christie has not been so quick to throw his stamp on the legislation. According to an NJ Spotlight report, Christie has not made up his mind whether he supports the fracking wastewater ban, saying he preferred to do a bit of research on his own.
According to the letter signed by the Environmental Commission, tens of thousands of gallons of drilling waste have already been shipped to New Jersey wastewater treatment plants. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection reported that the waste was transported to New Jersey between July and December 2011. The issue, the letter explains, is that New Jersey’s treatment facilities aren’t capable of treating the water as they lack the necessary technology and systems.
Below are some highlights from the letter:
Pennsylvania DEP has reported that between July and December 2011, Clean Earth facilities in Kearny and Carteret were shipped 30,786 gallons of “drilling waste” or drilling mud between and 478.90 tons of drill cuttings, respectfully.
New Jersey is not prepared to deal with this hazardous waste stream. First, there are no Class II underground injection wells in New Jersey for the disposal of oil and gas wastewaters. Second, as a product of the oil and gas industry, fracking wastewater is exempted from federal-‐ and state-‐level regulations pertaining to hazardous waste and hazardous material, which allows for this waste to be handled and disposed as if it were not hazardous, increasing the risk of adverse human health and environmental impacts. Third, New Jersey’s wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to handle the toxic and highly-‐variable contaminant loads that fracking wastewaters contain.
Numerous known chemical additives in fracking fluid are of public health concern, including benzene, napthalene, methanol, formaldehyde, ethylene glycol, and 2-‐butoxyethanol. Long-‐term exposure to these environmental toxins can result in nervous system, kidney, and/or liver problems; some are known to cause cancer. Unknown additives may likewise present public health risks, but because the oil and gas industry is allowed to keep frack formulas secret, not all components are disclosed so it is impossible to know the full threat they pose.
When a gas well is fracked, the flowback that erupts back to the surface contains fracking fluids and also highly-‐variable levels of naturally occurring dangerous contaminants such as radioactive material, including highly toxic Radium 226; concentrated salts, barium, strontium, bromide, arsenic and heavy metals; and cancer-‐causing compounds such as benzene and benzo(a)pyrene. These contaminants pose substantial health hazards, including cellular and DNA damage, neurological impairment and an increased risk of cancer.
The corrosive salts in fracking wastewater -‐-‐ five to ten times saltier than sea water -‐-‐ harm industrial equipment at wastewater facilities and cause corrosion of piping systems for manufacturing industries, utilities and other users that withdraw the salty water. Allowing public facilities to accept this waste would add to the already pressing need for costly improvements to public wastewater and water supply infrastructure and would also drive up costs for other industries. New Jerseyans cannot afford such added costs and neither can the State’s businesses.
Banning the treatment, discharge, disposal, or storage of wastewater, wastewater solids, sludge, drill cuttings or other byproducts from natural gas exploration or production using hydraulic fracturing would eliminate the risks and costs that fracking waste presents to New Jersey’s public health, public infrastructure, businesses, and the environment. A ban would also reduce the risk of accidental spills from trucking this wastewater around the state, spills that could lead to contamination of precious drinking water resources, communities, and the natural environment. For these reasons we urge you to sign A575/S253.