TRENTON — Two years after Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar measure, state lawmakers are advancing a bill that would ban the dumping of fracking waste in New Jersey.
The state Senate voted 33-4 today to pass bipartisan legislation that would prohibit companies from treating, discharging, disposing, and storing waste from hydraulic fracturing — the controversial practice of pumping water, sand, and chemicals deep underground to harvest natural gas.
“This is one of the major environmental issues facing our state,” said Sen. Robert Gordon (D-Bergen), a co-sponsor of the bill (S1041). “Fracking has provided America with greater energy independence. On the other hand, there are risks to our water system because of the process.”
Fracking has becoming more prominent in recent years, causing U.S. energy production to spike.
But critics fear it could pollute drinking water supplies. France has banned the practice, and last month President Obama’s administration announced it’s considering tighter regulations.
Though Fracking isn’t practiced in New Jersey, it does take place in neighboring Pennsylvania. Environmentalists say companies have transported fracking waste over the border to three New Jersey landfills willing to accept it: in Carteret, Elizabeth, and Pennsville. This bill would make that illegal.
Gordon added that companies could one day begin fracking in New Jersey because there are gas deposits in the western part of the state.
Christie has twice vetoed legislation aiming to crack down on fracking. In 2011, he conditionally vetoed a bill that would have banned the practice outright in the state. In 2012, he vetoed a earlier version of the dumping bill.
The Republican governor said the latter measure was “premature in view of our collective understanding of fracking, its waste, and the potential for future advances in these developing and emerging areas.”
He also said it violated the constitutional commerce law that says states shouldn’t pass laws that discriminate against one another.
Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Somerset), another sponsor, said the new measure is nearly identical to the old one. The Assembly would still need to pass the legislation before it lands on Christie’s desk.
“I’m hoping the second time, he reconsiders,” Bateman said. “There are too many unanswered questions about fracking.”
Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for Christie, said: “If and when a final version of legislation reaches his desk, it will be carefully reviewed in the 45 days period he has prior to taking any action.”
Environmentalists praised the Senate for passing the bill today.
“This is a victory for clean water,” said Jeff Tittel, president of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club. “New Jersey has enough water pollution. We don’t need to bring more in from other states.”