by Tom Johnson
With a moratorium on using hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas due to expire this week in New York, New Jersey legislators stepped up efforts to ban the practice not only in their home state, but also elsewhere in the region.
A letter signed by 15 New Jersey legislators urged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo not to lift the moratorium on fracking, a process they argue that could imperil the drinking water of more than 3 million residents in the region.
Meanwhile, the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee adopted once again a bill (A-567) establishing a moratorium on fracking in New Jersey, a measure previously conditionally vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie, in part because the practice has never been used in the state.
These actions underscore the ongoing controversy surrounding hydraulic fracturing, which injects huge quantities of water and smaller amounts of sand and toxic chemicals to break up dense rock formations and gain access to natural gas.
The practice has fueled an economic boom in the Northeast by increasing natural gas supplies, which has helped drive down electric and gas bills for consumers and businesses. It also has led to a resurgence in the manufacturing sector, which relies on the natural gas for many of the products it creates.
In New Jersey, the increase in natural gas supplies has helped shrink electric and gas bills four years in a row, according to Jim Benton, executive director of the New Jersey Petroleum Council.
The boom in drilling, however, has created a huge outcry in the region’s environmental community -- a protest also joined by many lawmakers -- who fear that fracking will pollute the Delaware River, which supplies drinking water to much of the region.