Gov. Christie vetoes fracking wastewater ban

TRENTON, N.J. - September 21, 2012

Christie's veto disappointed but did not surprise the environmental community, which had pushed to ban drilling byproducts from other states, including Pennsylvania, from winding up in New Jersey.

The Sierra Club's Jeff Tittel immediately said environmentalists would push for an override vote. Democrats' previous attempts to override the governor on other issues have failed.

The governor in his veto message cited the unlikelihood that the gas drilling technique generating the waste - called hydraulic fracturing or fracking - would occur in New Jersey anytime soon. He also said such a ban is premature since the federal Environmental Protection Agency is studying fracking and isn't expected to issue any guidance before 2014.

"Despite the vigorous public debate that surrounded last legislative term's fracking legislation and the absence of consensus on the merits of the drilling technique, there was one fact on which there could be no debate and on which the Legislature and I fundamentally agreed ... Hydraulic fracturing is not occurring and is unlikely to occur in New Jersey in the foreseeable future," Christie said in his veto message.

Fracking involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into a gas well to crack surrounding shale thousands of feet underground so trapped natural gas can flow into the well. Environmentalists fear it could result in contamination of drinking water supplies. But people in the petroleum industry say fracking brings down the cost of energy and provides economic benefits.

The first-term Republican agreed to a one-year moratorium on fracking in January, not the permanent ban environmentalists had sought. The move was largely symbolic anyway because there are few frackable shale formations where the natural gas could be extracted in New Jersey.

Democrats who sponsored the bill banning fracking byproducts called Christie's decision "shortsighted and misinformed."

Some drilling waste from Pennsylvania has entered New Jersey, according to tracking by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. But it has been fluids and other residue generated prior to fracking, not waste produced by fracking itself.

Sen. Bob Gordon and Assemblywoman Connie Wagner, both Democrats who represent parts of Bergen and Passaic counties, said the bill sought to protect New Jersey residents from contaminated wastewater generated during natural gas exploration or production in any state.

"The governor used a veto in search of a justification," Gordon said. "We sent this bill to the governor with overwhelming bipartisan support, and it is my hope that we will enact it over this misguided veto by those same margins.

The bill passed the Senate 30-5 and the Assembly 56-19 with four abstentions and one member not voting. There are 24 Democrats in the Senate and 48 in the Assembly. A successful override would require 27 votes in the Senate and 54 in the Assembly.

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