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.
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.