New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie proposed a one-year moratorium on “fracking” Thursday, splitting the difference politically by conditionally vetoing a bill passed by the legislature that would have permanently banned the process, PolitickerNJ reports.
Fracking is a process by which layers of rock are drilled into in order to fracture them and release natural gas. Some contend that fracking is dangerous and contaminates groundwater as well as posing a risk to air quality, but others defend it as a safe means to tap into a large supply of natural gas.
“I share many of the concerns expressed by the legislators that sponsored this bill and the environmental advocates seeking a permanent moratorium on fracking,” said Christie. “We must ensure that our environment is protected and our drinking water is safe. I am placing a one-year moratorium on fracking so that the DEP can further evaluate the potential environmental impacts of this practice in New Jersey as well as evaluate the findings of still outstanding and ongoing federal studies.
There are currently two studies being conducted on the environmental impact of fracking — one by the Environmental Protection Agency and one by the Department of Energy. The preliminary findings of neither study have been released.
“The potential environmental concerns with fracking in our state must be studied and weighed carefully against the potential benefits of increasing access to natural gas in New Jersey,” said Christie. “The decision on whether to ban fracking outright or regulate it for environmental protection must be developed on the basis of sound policy and legitimate science,” continued the governor. “Therefore, while I share many of the concerns expressed by those who support this legislation, I believe that a one-year moratorium on fracking in New Jersey while the issue is studied by the USDOE, USEPA, and NJDEP is the most prudent, responsible, and balanced course of action.”
The conditional veto has not won him any points with environmentalists. Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, told The Hill that the moratorium was “a joke” and a “PR gimmick that does not protect the people of New Jersey [but] instead takes the side of the gas and oil industry.”
State Senator Bob Gordon and Asemblywoman Connie Wagner, both Democrats who sponsored the legislation, called the veto “extremely disappointing,” and said that the “consequences of allowing this procedure here in New Jersey could be catastrophic.”
“A one year moratorium will do little on this issue, other than provide another year for us to see how dangerous fracking is,” they said in a statement. “Fracking represents the greatest threat to our drinking water we have seen in generations. We simply cannot allow it to happen in New Jersey and we will be taking whatever steps we can to implement a total ban.”
On the other side, the Marcellus Shale Coalition was equally displeased with the moratorium. The group said “the “policy sends the wrong message to an entire nation benefiting from the responsible production of clean-burning, American natural gas,” as The Hill reported.
As yet, no fracking has been done in New Jersey.