The New Jersey Legislature [official website] passed an amendment to a bill [A567 text, PDF] on Monday that establishes a one-year ban on a natural gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking [JURIST news archive]. Legislators re-introduced the bill this year after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) [official website] conditionally vetoed legislation [press release] last June that would have permanently banned fracking in New Jersey [JURIST report]. When Christie vetoed the bill, he instituted a one-year moratorium on fracking in order to study its potential consequences. The bill passed on Monday asserts that public safety concerns stemming from uncertainty over the environmental consequences of fracking necessitate a ban on the practice:
[T]he drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas exploration and production has been found to use a variety of contaminating chemicals and materials that can suddenly and in an uncontrolled manner be introduced into the surface waters and ground water of the State; that the companies engaging in the use of this drilling technique have been less than forthcoming in revealing the "cocktail" of chemicals and their volume that can be introduced into these waters ... The Legislature therefore determines it is prudent and in the best interest of the people of the State of New Jersey to prohibit hydraulic fracturing in the State for the purpose of natural gas exploration or production.The bill now goes to Christie, who can either sign or veto it.
Fracking has been a contentious issue recently, both in the US and abroad. Fracking is a process in which water, sand and chemicals are pumped into the ground to create fractures in rocks which allows trapped gas and oil to come to surface. Proponents trumpet the technique for providing people with abundant energy as well as for creating jobs in a tough economy. Opponents of fracking point out its negative consequences on the environment and public health. In October the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] announced plans to develop standards [JURIST report] for wastewater discharge from fracking. In July JURIST contributor Joseph Schaeffer wrote extensively [JURIST op-ed] about communities in Appalachia preemptively passing laws to curb fracking. In June New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman [official profile] sued the US government [JURIST report] for its alleged failure to study the risks of fracking. In May France's lower house approved a nationwide ban on fracking [JURIST report].