Bloomfield opinion: Ban fracked-gas dumping

May 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

An important bill was passed in Trenton this month when the Senate voted 33-to-4 to ban fracking waste dumping in New Jersey.

Why is this significant? In this column, based on in-depth research by the Food and Water Watch, a national and state-wide organization, you will learn the answer.

Fracking and its waste

Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is an advanced method of drilling for gas. It was developed to capture gas that is within shale rock which was hard to access in the past.

Fracking injects a mixture of millions of gallons of water, toxic chemicals and sand into wells to create explosions that crack the rocks, allowing the gas to escape and flow out of the wells. The released gas is pumped into pipes and sent to communities across our country.

The problem with this is that the process can pollute the land, air and water. Large quantities of methane gas escape into the atmosphere at multiple points throughout the lifecycle process of fracking.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that is more potent than carbon dioxide during a 20-year period, which means fracking will only exacerbate the climate crisis, which is already bringing more extreme weather and rising sea levels to New Jersey.

The chemicals used in fracking include known and suspected carcinogens, such as formaldehyde and benzene. Other toxins include toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes, which can result in nervous system, kidney and/or liver problems.

We don’t know all of the hundreds of chemicals because the Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted the oil and gas industry from basic laws and regulations, including the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Air Acts, that would otherwise require them to be disclosed to the public.

Fracking also brings up toxins naturally in the earth that would not affect us if they stayed below. Some of them are arsenic, lead and radioactive material. This toxic solid and liquid waste has to be disposed of – but where?

Due to environmental exemptions, the waste is being dumped into rivers, buried in abandoned wells – some of which have caused earthquakes – and put into landfills. They are being sent to water treatment plants that are not designed to handle the highly toxic chemicals, and end up contaminating drinking water supplies and waterways.

There are mounting stories by people, living near gas wells, who report water from their faucets catching on fire due to methane contamination and new illnesses among themselves and their animals due to polluted air and water. In some towns, such as Dimock, Pa., the water became so polluted that the gas company has to furnish residents with trucked in clean water, which residents keep in large containers next to their homes.

Pennsylvania has tens of thousands of shale gas wells, and some of the waste has been brought into New Jersey to facilities in Carteret, Elizabeth, Kearny and Deepwater. Since fracking waste is unregulated, it is disposed of as if it were not hazardous, increasing the risk of adverse human health and environmental impacts.

Protecting NJ

There is no fracking for gas in New Jersey at the moment, but it could happen if companies find a way to penetrate the Utica Shale or Newark Basin formations in northern New Jersey.

The State Senate of a ban on fracked gas-dumping is a step in the right direction. Now, the Assembly has to pass it as well. Subsequently, it will be sent to Gov. Chris Christie for his signature.

Last year, both houses passed such a bill, but Christie vetoed it. It was defeated because the State Legislature could not get the two-thirds vote necessary to override his veto.

To prevent this from happening again, there will be a Lobby Day on Thursday, June 12. Concerned citizens from all over New Jersey will descend on Trenton to visit their representatives, especially in the Assembly, to try to convince them to support a fracking waste ban. Tips will be provided on how to do this most effectively.

To find out more about this event, search the web for “Fracking Waste Ban Rally and Lobby Day, June 12.”

Bloomfield residents can also ask Assembly members Ralph Caputo and Cleopatra Tucker to support a ban Visit For car-pooling information, call Ted at 973-338-5398.

There is an argument that fracked gas is needed as a “bridge fuel” to tide us over until we can develop enough clean, renewable energy. However, this overlooks advances in technology that have drastically dropped the cost of solar and wind.

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