New Jersey Senate Passes Fracking Ban

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Lawmakers in the New Jersey Senate voted 33-1 today to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking), in a move to protect the Delaware River from potential contamination from the risky unconventional gas drilling practice. The Delaware River supplies drinking water for 15 million people in four states. reports:

The 33-1 vote came after Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) unsuccessfully asked for a five-year moratorium instead of an outright ban.

Sen. Robert Gordon (D-Bergen), one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, “represents the greatest threat to New Jersey’s water supply than anything else we face today.”

“I don’t think we can wait for five years. I think we need to send a clear signal to the rest of the nation that New Jersey values its water resources,” Gordon said.

Prominent environmental groups, such as Food and Water Watch, the Sierra Club and the Delaware Riverkeeper, have pushed for the decision as unconventional gas drilling increasingly encroaches upon the state’s borders.

In March, the NJ House of Representatives unanimously voted to ban fracking in New Jersey due to concerns the process will contaminate drinking water. Although little drilling activity has taken place in New Jersey, the state is home to a corner of the Marcellus Shale, one of the world’s largest shale gas fields, spanning from New York and Pennsylvania to parts of Ohio and West Virginia.

Unconventional gas is heralded as the key to America’s clean energy future. Industry advocates claim that the country’s vast reserves of gas are the solution to our foreign dependence on oil and a warming climate. But the new extraction technology, fracking, is a carbon-intensive operation and an inherently risky process that involves millions of gallons of toxic water that have polluted local sources of drinking water, both above and below ground.

The bill’s sponsor, Senator Robert Gordon, suggests that fracking has become a blind hope, and that the rush to produce the nation’s deposits poses unnecessary risks to sources of clean water. “We have to be really concerned  that in addressing an air pollution problem, we don’t create a water pollution problem,” he said.

Jim Walsh, the eastern regional director of Food and Water Watch, feels New Jersey’s decision to ban fracking is significant for the future of fracking in other states.

“New Jersey will be the first state to stand up against the devastating environmental and public health impacts of fracking, which have wreaked havoc on other states across the U.S. We hope that the actions taken by the legislature will give courage to lawmakers in surrounding states to pass bans on fracking,” Walsh told DeSmogBlog.

But the issue of fracking, for Walsh, has also to do with the gas industry’s exercise of power in the political realm.

“The reality is this industry has used influence in Washington to exempt themselves from important regulations that are meant to protect public health, our drinking water and the environment. The industry consistently fights legislation that would bring them into compliance with these important federal laws,” says Walsh, adding that strict enforcement could force companies to discontinue the dangerous practice.

The industry’s exemptions from federal environmental statutes like the Safe Drinking Water Act have severely limited state control of unconventional gas drilling. Some groups like Food and Water Watch are convinced that due to the inherent risks of fracking, there is no such thing as safe drilling.

“Even with strong federal regulations, it is doubtful that regulators will be able to provide the aggressive oversight that would be necessary to protect the public and the environment,” says Walsh. “With what we know and don’t know about fracking the only reasonable conclusion we can come to is that the practice should be banned.”

The ban in New Jersey has been called ‘irrelevant’ by Chris Tucker, spokesman for the gas industry front group, Energy in Depth. But while it is true that there is very little gas potential in New Jersey, the state’s decision to prioritize public and environmental health over oil and gas industry drilling may lead to similar moves in the future. There is already mounting pressure on the Delaware River Basin Commission to extend the ban to the waterways in New York and Pennsylvania that feed the Delaware River.

New Jersey’s decision is a significant addition to the growing list of fracking bans throughout jurisdictions in the U.S. However, these bans also demonstrate the urgent need for federal agencies to rein in the gas industry, which in all other situations and states, enjoys relative impunity.

State oversight agencies are simply not doing an effective job protecting the public from the dangers of unconventional gas drillng. Moratoriums and bans have become the soundest measure to limit the industry’s reckless practices, but federal action and oversight remain the only real solution.

One unanswered question Walsh has posed to the industry: “If your practice is so safe then why do you fight regulations that would help to ensure important safeguards are in place to protect public health and the environment?”

For more information about fracking, view DeSmogBlog’s special report: Fracking The Future

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Now that they’ve solved the non existent water problem, maybe they can move on to the cant pay the bills because of their massive debt problem.

Or maybe they can find some other distraction for a while

WOW! And the fact that “fracking has been done for decades?” REALLY? NOT! Slickwater hydraulic fracturing has NOT beeen done for decades and was only RECENTLY introduced to mountainous regions! There IS actually MUCH evidence of water contamination and the EPA has just recently proved THAT! SO! Please dont make uneducated comments about how people are just blowing off about the gas industry until you live with a drill in your own back yard! I guess that I could wish that on you so that youd get to see what its REALLY all about…but I wouldnt even wish that on my worst enemy!

There IS actually MUCH evidence of water contamination and the EPA has just recently proved THAT! SO! Please dont make uneducated comments about how people are just blowing off about the gas industry until you live with a drill in your own back yard!

Who is the uneducated one?

All of this growth has inevitably attracted critics, notably environmentalists and their allies. They’ve launched a media and political assault on hydraulic fracturing, and their claims are raising public anxiety. So it’s a useful moment to separate truth from fiction in the main allegations against the shale revolution.

• Fracking contaminates drinking water. One claim is that fracking creates cracks in rock formations that allow chemicals to leach into sources of fresh water. The problem with this argument is that the average shale formation is thousands of feet underground, while the average drinking well or aquifer is a few hundred feet deep. Separating the two is solid rock. This geological reality explains why EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, a determined enemy of fossil fuels, recently told Congress that there have been no “proven cases where the fracking process itself has affected water.”

A second charge, based on a Duke University study, claims that fracking has polluted drinking water with methane gas. Methane is naturally occurring and isn’t by itself harmful in drinking water, though it can explode at high concentrations. Duke authors Rob Jackson and Avner Vengosh have written that their research shows “the average methane concentration to be 17 times higher in water wells located within a kilometer of active drilling sites.”

They failed to note that researchers sampled a mere 68 wells across Pennsylvania and New York—where more than 20,000 water wells are drilled annually. They had no baseline data and thus no way of knowing if methane concentrations were high prior to drilling. They also acknowledged that methane was detected in 85% of the wells they tested, regardless of drilling operations, and that they’d found no trace of fracking fluids in any wells.

The Duke study did spotlight a long-known and more legitimate concern: the possibility of leaky well casings at the top of a drilling site, from which methane might migrate to water supplies. As the BP Gulf of Mexico spill attests, proper well construction and maintenance are major issues in any type of drilling, and they ought to be the focus of industry standards and attention. But the risks are not unique to fracking, which has provided no unusual evidence of contamination.

OOOPPSS! I guess you were wring angain with your fearmongering. So sad. The info is out there but the progressives seem unable to find it.

Lets look at the rest of the article shall we.

• Fracking releases toxic or radioactive chemicals. The reality is that 99.5% of the fluid injected into fracture rock is water and sand. The chemicals range from the benign, such as citric acid (found in soda pop), to benzene. States like Wyoming and Pennsylvania require companies to publicly disclose their chemicals, Texas recently passed a similar law, and other states will follow.

Drillers must dispose of fracking fluids, and environmentalists charge that disposal sites also endanger drinking water, or that drillers deliberately discharge radioactive wastewater into streams. The latter accusation inspired the EPA to require that Pennsylvania test for radioactivity. States already have strict rules designed to keep waste water from groundwater, including liners in waste pits, and drillers are subject to stiff penalties for violations. Pennsylvania’s tests showed radioactivity at or below normal levels.

• Fracking causes cancer. In Dish, Texas, Mayor Calvin Tillman caused a furor this year by announcing that he was quitting to move his sons away from “toxic” gases—such as cancer-causing benzene—from the town’s 60 gas wells. State health officials investigated and determined that toxin levels in the majority of Dish residents were “similar to those measured in the general U.S. population.” Residents with higher levels of benzene in their blood were smokers. (Cigarette smoke contains benzene.)

• Fracking causes earthquakes. It is possible that the deep underground injection of fracking fluids might cause seismic activity. But the same can be said of geothermal energy exploration, or projects to sequester carbon dioxide underground. Given the ubiquity of fracking without seismic impact, the risks would seem to be remote.

• Pollution from trucks. Drillers use trucks to haul sand, cement and fluids, and those certainly increase traffic congestion and pollution. We think the trade-off between these effects and economic development are for states and localities to judge, keeping in mind that externalities decrease as drillers become more efficient.

• Shale exploration is unregulated. Environmentalists claim fracking was “exempted” in 2005 from the federal Safe Water Drinking Act, thanks to industry lobbying. In truth, all U.S. companies must abide by federal water laws, and what the greens are really saying is that fracking should be singled out for special and unprecedented EPA oversight.

Most drilling operations—including fracking—have long been regulated by the states. Operators need permits to drill and are subject to inspections and reporting requirements. Many resource-rich states like Texas have detailed fracking rules, while states newer to drilling are developing these regulations.

As a regulatory model, consider Pennsylvania. Recently departed Governor Ed Rendell is a Democrat, and as the shale boom progressed he worked with industry and regulators to develop a flexible regulatory environment that could keep pace with a rapidly growing industry. As questions arose about well casings, for instance, Pennsylvania imposed new casing and performance requirements. The state has also increased fees for processing shale permits, which has allowed it to hire more inspectors and permitting staff.

New York, by contrast, has missed the shale play by imposing a moratorium on fracking. The new state Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, recently sued the federal government to require an extensive environmental review of the entire Delaware River Basin. Meanwhile, the EPA is elbowing its way into the fracking debate, studying the impact on drinking water, animals and “environmental justice.”

Now you are up to date on our current info on the fracking process. Let the hysterics continue.

Once again a decision based on feelings instead of science.

The Gasland movie: a fracking shame – director pulls video to hide inconvenient truths

Distinction Between In-Situ Biogenic Gas and Migrated Thermogenic Gas in Ground Water, Denver Basin, Colorado:

Methane-rich gas commonly occurs in ground water in the Denver basin, southern Weld County, Colorado. The gas generally is in solution in the ground water of the aquifer. However, exsolution resulting from reduction to hydrostatic pressure during water production may create free gas, which can accumulate in wells and buildings and pose an explosion and fire hazard.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” got a clean bill of health this week in the first scientific look at the safety of the oil and production practice.

Don’t know if you’re getting paid to troll for and attempt to rebut all the bad news of fracking that you can find, James, but if you are, you should at least update your information occasionally, instead of just pasting the same old comment everywhere.
As for the “substance” of your talking points, while there is indeed a distinction between biogenic and thermogenic gas, it doesn’t make much difference which type it is if it is the drilling process (including not only the fracking event, as the O&G industry likes to define it, but also the rest of the drilling process, including mudding, well-casing, etc.) which causes the gas to contaminate wells and other water supplies. And given that in the Colorado case you reference, the water in question was neither gray nor flammable prior to drilling in the area, it’s pretty clear that it was drilling that caused the contamination.
Please also note that in the very same Colorado case you cite, the (captured) state gas regulator concluded that while one well was not contaminated by fracking (again, as defined not by common sense, but by the gas industry), another nearby well was contaminated by thermogenic, not biogenic, gas, as a result of gas drilling. You can look it up.

Playing with migrating gasses, brine, and underground chemicals, whether or not they are NATURALLY OCCURING or NOT is NOT a good or safe practice. Do you know what HAPPENS to those gasses when they are released in an unnatural way? Do you know that NO ONE can safely predict where the drill will go or what it will disturb below the surface? When you can come up with a camera that will show exactly what is being drilled through down there, and a way to move your drill around it so that it doesnt disturb any nasty stuff…THEN you can say that it is a safe process. For now, I am just predicting that you are paid to surf the internet to create some sort of doubt in the minds of those who have no idea that this is even happening…let alone what it is about! SO! Tell your gas buddies that I say hi and that we are all hoping for the day, when like New Jersey, we can say GOOD RIDDANCE!

I say you need to do a little research. Actually they know exactly where that bit is and they can steer it where they want. Read up on the BP well in the gulf. They drilled a few thousand feet down and tagged that bit right in the side of casing of the blown out well. They know exactly what they are drilling in. This guy is called the Mud Logger”. When a well cost several million to drill these guys don’t just stab blindly in the ground. Read up on this stuff you might find some of this technology fascinating. Next thing we need to consider is the situation the US is in right now. We have to have hydrocarbons…. I myself would like to see us “go green” and not depend on any oil or gas but we are not there yet. You have probably heard of all kinds of green energy but there are NONE that can produce our energy requirements economically. And in our current economy individuals and industry cannot afford to pay several times the price for energy. Nuclear could do it. But right now all the government bureaucracy, and safety regulations make nuclear energy far to costly. If they would just get the government out of the nuclear energy and let them manage themselves they could produce this power very cheaply. Considering the Jet Stream I want all these plants built west of the Mississippi. Does anybody have actual dollar figures on how much money the nuclear industry has spent to lobby against the oil and gas industry? Raised in the wheat country of western Oklahoma I learned one thing well. “Don’t cuss the farmer with your mouth full”. Want to cuss the oil and gas industry? Quit using it! I wish all of you well on your quest. I wish you could run all them energy companies out of the northeast. They have no business there and they need to get back down here in the south where they belong. Hey read the news in Arkansas. Our lawmakers have a big task at hand in the next few weeks. They have to figure out how spend all that money left over from our state budget.

Apparently James47 is using a different definition of “clean bill of health” than I am familiar with.

In the May PNAS paper by Osborn et al.* the Duke researchers reported average thermogenic CH4 levels in water wells near fracked natural gas wells were 170% greater than the levels found in water wells over 1km from gas wells. (They also reported ethane, propane and butane in many water wells near drilling but seldom in water wells far from gas drilling.)

Since the researchers were not provided with the specific constituents used in the fracking fluids, all they could test for were generic ions, overall brine levels, and concentrations of naturally occurring radioactive isotopes.

They offer 3 possible mechanisms for their findings: (1)physical displacement of gas-rich brines from deep to shallow water-bearing strata, (2) leaky gas-well casings, and (3) new paths of communication across strata introduced by hydraulic fracturing.

They found little evidence for #1 but they were explicit in NOT eliminating mechanisms #2 or 3 (this is worth repeating: they did NOT exonerate fracking).

In other words, what Osborn et al. found was a linkage between elevated methane in water wells and natural gas drilling activity that includes hydraulic fracturing. If the industry was interested in scientific exoneration of their activities, they would provide researchers with the chemical make-up of their frack fluids.

*Interested readers can find more information in the original scientific report in Osborn, SG, A Vengosh, NR Warner & RB Jackson. 2011. Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing. PNAS 108(20):8172-8176. [Found online at:]

Hey Rick,

I do NOT write the headlines for the NY Times. Maybe you should READ and COMPREHEND something before you comment on it.

Say James47, I don’t see where I commented at all on the headline of any NYTimes article. I was commenting on the substance of an actual scientific paper and noting how the conclusions of the scientists were at odds with your claim about a “clean bill of health” for fracking.

Based on your latest comment, i really t appears that all YOU did was repeat (and repeat) the headline from a newspaper story without verifying accuracy of the story. I’m the one who took the effort to read the actual original scientific report (and helpfully provided a link to it so you can, maybe, not get called out for only reading newspaper stories).

Have a frackin’ good day.

You are aware that changing headlines of newspapers is not an acceptable practice dont you? Probably not. If you would like to be angry for someone about the title of the article then I suggest you contact the editors of the NY Times to lodge your complaint for misleading headlines.

As for my views on this process, it would appear that very little scientific study has gone into determining possible detrimental effects of fracking. 2 studies is not my idea of a settled issue but I’m sure that it is in your mind. What happened to basing policy on sound science instead of feelings or popularity? But continue to throw out ad homieum attacks since it has helped your side so much in the past.

For all the bloviating the left does about Rick Perry and Texas, you fail to see past your ideology that Rick Perry and the Texas legislature have passed a law requiring fracking companies to publish the chemicals that they are using which is more than any other person has done to open up the process of fracking to the public. I am not a Rick Perry fan at all but I know where to give credit where it is due.

You are a wild one, James47!

What the H are you talking about changing headlines? Why is this such an issue to you? And if it is such an issue, why did you write something different than the actual headline? All I was trying to point out was that the original scientific reports are usually a more reliable source of factual information than newspaper stories (with or without a headline).

Then there is the question of why is there “very little scientific study … into determining possible detrimental effects of fracking?”

If the O&G industry (and you?) really and truly want policy based on “sound science,” well then, produce some of that science. Why, if there is little scientific study, does the industry so confidently pronounce the safety of their practices? Do you see how this demand for “sound science” cuts both ways? It’s incredibly difficult for independent researchers to do these studies since they don’t have access to the list of materials being used. So, it’s really up to the industry to either conduct/fund the research, or provide independent researchers with the information they need to conduct “sound science.”

In other words, put up or shut up.

BTW, were you using your amateur psychologist certificate when you decided I was angry or that it is me that can’t “see past [my] ideology?” You seem to think you know quite a bit about me. Did you guess that I work on contract for O&G companies? That I think it is pretty cool that people are able to extract gas from strata that used to be ignored? That maybe I know a thing or two due to my work and the fact that I have many colleagues within the O&G industry? That I am a scientist and recognize the call for “sound science” as a ploy for delay NOT for good policy.

So, if you want an ad hom argument, I can provide one for you right now. I was in no way angry. I don’t get angry at people of no consequence. (How was that? Sufficiently ad hom for you?)

Fracking has been in use for decades.

Total number of contaminated water sources: ZERO

Congratulations to the New Jersey political class for once again shooting their citizens in the foot. Although, I think they may be running out of un-shot feet.

You are lucky that you havent some across a polluted well yet. Come on over to Pennsylvania! I can show you MANY that you wont be able to dispute! Radioactivity found by the EPA in the wells surrounding our recent blowout too! ZERO contamination…BAH!

If Alberta wants the sales at the cost of its resources, its livestock, and the lives of its citizens, then theres not a single person in Pennsylvania that would take that away from them. If you want it, then you GOT it, cause we dont want them here anyMORE!

Bravo to NJ for standing up to the oil giants and choosing safe drinking water and breathable air over bags of money. I hope my home state of Ohio takes the same action now that drilling in state parks and public lands has been forced upon us.

And unfortunately, SDobbie46 , you have also been the recipients of much of the wastewater from PA too! Sorry bout that! Weve tried to stop it, but between greedy politicians and uneducated and economically disadvantaged people, we are the prime breeding ground for the gas companies to move right in and rape, pillage, and plunder all that they want! Guess we now know what its like to live in a third world country where no one has rights…sucks, huh?


As long as there are morons in your states, we will have the best economy in All the Americas.

And we really do appreciate your stupidity…

Really…. Thank you.

And just FYI; As soon as all your resource companies have closed up, we will jack the price up.

Cause well…. thats what you do to stupid people…

“Lawmakers in the New Jersey Senate voted 33-1 today to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking)”

Oh well, too bad for New Jersey. Now folks in NJ will have to buy their shale gas from nearby states, no biggie. Of course the shale gas which naturally resides under NJ will be siphoned off by the next nearest state and sold back to NJ. So instead of selling their gas to other states, they’ll be buying thier own gas from other states. They’ve made their bed on this one. Lol!

If it was possible to drain the gas under one state from a neighboring state, then it wouldn’t be a “tight gas” formation and there would be no need for the technique of hydraulic fracturing to induce the gas to flow.

Thanks for playing!

NJ is just playing the game. In about 400 years and all the other gas is depleted NJ will lift their ban and can name their price for their gas. It really does not concern me to any degree. I really don’t think they have any.