New Jersey Bans Treatment of Fracking Waste
The natural gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is not taking place in New Jersey. But legislators and environmentalists are concerned about the state’s proximity to Pennsylvania, a shale gas fracking hot spot that sends some drill cuttings and waste water to nearby states, including New York, for processing and treatment. New York is also currently considering allowing fracking upstate.
The New Jersey Assembly passed the ban last week, and the Senate voted for the bill on Monday, sending it to Gov. Chris Christie for his signature.
Officials with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection say that very little waste currently makes it into the state and that regulations are in place to ensure its safe handling. The New Jersey Petroleum Council, which represents oil and gas companies, said the ban only robs companies that treat industrial waste of business opportunities.
But Scott Ross, the council’s associate director, noted that the ban may not have a major effect since most drilling companies prefer to recycle the waste on-site.
“I don’t think companies are lined up at the border waiting to get in,” he said.
Not all of the waste is recycled, though, and companies still have to find a way to dispose of the millions of gallons of toxic wastewater generated by drilling in the Marcellus Shale to release gas from hard rock. Some disposal options, like sending the waste to sewage treatment plants, have discharged pollutants into rivers and other streams and are currently being reviewed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
The issue is a vexing one for environmental regulators in New York, who are currently trying to decide on what conditions to impose on the industry before they allow fracking in the state. In New Jersey, lawmakers passed a fracking ban in the state last year even though the state is not known to have much gas reserves.
Governor Christie vetoed the bill, saying the issue needed further study, and imposed a one-year moratorium on fracking instead.
“Today’s vote will help keep Jersey drinking water safe from dirty drilling waste,” said John Rumpler, a senior attorney for Environment New Jersey, one of the groups that lobbied for the ban.