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NJ governor rejects permanent frac prohibition

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a bill prohibiting hydraulic fracturing in natural gas activities in the state, but imposed a 1-year ban so the state’s Department of Environmental Protection can study the matter more fully.

Christie said on Aug. 25 that he shares many of the concerns expressed by the bill’s supporters, but noted that S 2576 was pushed through the legislature as the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy were studying the environmental consequences of the technology used to recover gas from tight shale formations.

“I am placing a 1-year moratorium on fracing so that the DEP can further evaluate the potential environmental impacts of this practice in New Jersey as well as evaluate the findings of still outstanding and ongoing federal studies,” Christie said.

Groups representing gas producers expressed disappointment at the governor’s decision to impose a ban.

“It’s unfortunate and ill-advised that Gov. Christie would seek to ban the regulated use of hydraulic fracturing for any period of time, a technology that has been used safely for generations not only in the context of oil and natural gas, but to stimulate water wells and gain access to geothermal energy,” said Lee O. Fuller, executive director of Energy in Depth, a Washington, DC-based advocacy group for independent producers.

Marcellus Shale Coalition Pres. Kathryn Z. Klaber noted that while the massive formation does not underlie enough of New Jersey to make it economical to produce, and no gas producers are actively seeking to explore in the state, the 1-year ban sends the wrong message to a country benefiting from the responsible gas production. “Further, the governor’s decision runs contrary to his understandable and laudable promotion of the expanded use of gas in his state,” she continued.

But the Chemical Council of New Jersey applauded Christie’s decision to veto the bill that would have prohibited fracing permanently, and endorsed his imposition of the 1-year ban so the state can enact requirements for environmentally safe procedures should fracing ever take place there.

“Without today’s decision, New Jersey would have become the first state with a permanent hydraulic fracturing ban,” said Hal Borzath, the CCNJ’s executive director. “That would be no way to encourage natural gas production the nation so desperately needs.”

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