New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie could issue a conditional veto over a bill banning hydraulic fracturing (fracking) by sending the measure back to the legislature and asking for changes.

Both chambers of the New Jersey Legislature passed the bill (S-2576) on June 29. The vote was a largely symbolic move in a state where no gas drilling is taking place or is planned (see NGI, July 4).

According to the legislature’s website, Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos Jr. (R-Monmouth) had attempted to add an amendment to S-2576 before its passage in the Senate. That effort failed when the Senate voted 22-15 to table Kyrillos’ amendment. The Senate went on to pass S-2576 by a 33-1 vote with Kyrillos the lone dissenter. The bill then passed the Assembly, 58-11.

The Asbury Park Press reported last Monday that Kyrillos’ amendment would have banned fracking in the Garden State for five years — until 2016 — rather than call for an outright ban.

Adam Bell, communications director for the Republican Caucus in the New Jersey Senate, told NGI that he did not know if Christie, also a Republican, would veto the bill if the legislature didn’t go along with Kyrillos’ original call for a five-year ban instead of a permanent one.

“I am hesitant to put words in the governor’s mouth,” Bell said last Tuesday. “Sen. Kyrillos is personally close with the governor, so he may have some insight that I don’t.”

Bell added that Christie has 45 days to either sign or veto a bill. “Typically on controversial measures, like this one, that goes down to the wire,” Bell said.

Lee Fuller, executive director for the shale gas education initiative Energy In Depth, told Christie in a letter dated July 1 that although no drilling is taking place there, New Jersey was still influential in the fracking debate.

“While a statewide ban on this technology is not likely to have a material impact on development activities in your state, it could be used by opponents of affordable, reliable energy as a tool to push for implementing similarly destructive, ill-informed moratoria in other states,” Fuller said. “In view of that potential, we write today to express our strong opposition to the bill.”

If Christie signs the bill, New Jersey would be the first state to officially ban fracking. Other measures on fracking have either been passed or are currently under consideration in New Jersey.

One bill (S-2575) would prohibit any New Jersey member of the Delaware River Basin Commission from supporting fracking. That bill was referred to the Senate Environmental and Energy Committee on Dec. 20. Meanwhile AJR-67 — which urges the other DRBC states to enact fracking moratoriums — passed the Assembly by a 59-7 vote on March 14 and was referred to the same committee.

Finally, AR 112 calls on the U.S. Congress to enact the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009, or FRAC Act. It passed the Assembly on March 14, 60-4, and has been filed with the New Jersey secretary of state.

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