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NJ Assembly Commettee Approves Fracking Wastewater Bill

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A New Jersey Assembly committee just approved a fracking wastewater bill that involves a ban on the treatment, disposal, or storage of waste produced by hydraulic fracturing.

“By passing this bill out of committee today, you can send a strong message that the health and well being of New Jersey residents is more important than the interests of the petroleum industry,” said Jim Walsh, eastern regional director of Food and Water Watch, according to NJ.com. The bill passed the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee with a 4-to-1 vote and with one abstention.

In hydraulic fracturing—fracking—the fluids involved, which are injected into the ground at high pressure to shake gas and oil deposits loose, can contain benzene and other toxic chemicals. Because of a loophole in the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, fracking regulation is typically handled on a state-by-state basis and energy companies are not mandated to disclose the chemicals used in their fluids to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Fracking opponents worry that this type of natural gas drilling pollutes vital drinking water sources, either by releasing naturally-occurring hazardous substances from beneath the ground or fracking fluid or fracking wastewater spills or leaks.

Fracking does not take place in New Jersey and there not many locations in which fracking could practically take place in that state, said NJ.com; however, the process is widespread in Pennsylvania, and New York continues to battle over the issue.

Those opposing the bill claim that fracking fluids are mostly water—99%–and sand and that the “vast majority” of the chemicals are harmless, said NJ.com. New Jersey Chemistry Council Executive Director Hal Bozarth said the measure will provide environmentalists what they need to ensure fracking is banned in other states, “It’s my opinion that those who are proponents of this bill are the same ones who oppose fracking in Pennsylvania,” he said.

Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (Democrat-Camden) disagreed. “When you say the vast majorities of materials are safe, that doesn’t instill a lot of confidence,” she said, wrote NJ.com.

The bill has moved through the Committee and is in the Assembly, but will likely not reach the governor before the Legislature’s session ends in January, said NJ.com. And, although the Senate Environment and Energy Committee is scheduled to discuss the bill Thursday, it is not expected to vote on the measure. If the measure does not make it through the full Legislature by the end of the session, it must be reintroduced and the process reinitiated, said NJ.com.

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) delayed a scheduled vote on proposed regulations meant to open that vital watershed to fracking. The DRBC announced the postponement after two Commission members opposed the proposed regulations. Most of the Delaware River Basin sits atop the natural gas-rich Marcellus shale, which encompasses areas in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey; provides drinking water to 17 million people on the East Coast; and covers 58% of the land area of New York City’s watershed west of the Hudson River. The City has spent nearly $1.5 billion to protect the drinking water obtained from the watershed.

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