Even though there is no gas drilling in the state, several New Jersey lawmakers are proceeding with a bill to ban hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) and plan to vote March 14 on a resolution urging neighboring states to enact fracking moratoriums to protect the water supply.

Two bills on hydrofracking are before the state Senate Environment and Energy Committee. The first, S-2576, specifically bans the practice and passed by a 5-0 vote on March 10. A second bill, S-2575, would prohibit any New Jersey member of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) from supporting hydrofracking. Companion legislation to both bills has been introduced in the state Assembly.

Both Senate bills specifically mention the June 3 blowout at an EOG Resources Inc. well in Clearfield County, PA (see NGI, July 19, 2010). The bills state that the incident “caused an explosion and the release of many gallons of contaminated water and uncontrolled natural gas from the drill site.”

Jennifer Sciortino, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Assembly Majority Office, told NGI that Assembly Joint Resolution (AJR-67) — which urges Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania to enact moratoriums — will come to a floor vote in the Assembly on March 14.

“It’s really a cautionary, preventative measure at this point,” Sciortino said on March 10. “There are [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)] studies going on right now and there have been some incidents in Pennsylvania and surrounding areas. It’s a precautionary measure because other states are doing work on the Delaware River, which flows through our state, and so there is a potential to impact us as well.”

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) spokesman Larry Ragonese concurred. He told NGI that although no drilling is currently taking place — or is planned — in the Garden State, the Delaware River is a concern.

“Our interest in this thing has been the water supply in particular,” Ragonese said on March 10. “What they’re doing in Pennsylvania could obviously have an impact on the water that comes into the Delaware River Basin, which provides drinking water in New Jersey. That is of concern to us.”

Ragonese added that DRBC members — which include representatives from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — were considering regulations to cover hydrofracking (see NGI, March 7; Feb. 28).

Sciortino said a second resolution, AR 112 — which calls on the U.S. Congress to enact the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009, or FRAC Act — would also come to an Assembly floor vote on March 14.

A third bill being considered by New Jersey lawmakers, Assembly Bill A-3653, would establish a moratorium on hydrofracking in the state until the EPA concludes its study on the practice and the DEP determines the study’s findings warrant lifting the moratorium.

Sciortino said lawmakers would need to reconcile between the bills calling for a moratorium on hydrofracking and an outright ban. “One of the bills will be substituted,” she said. “It’s all up in the air at this point; the sponsors have to work that out.”

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