Assembly Approves Bill Protecting NJ from Contaminated Fracking Wastewater

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TRENTON — The full Assembly on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Connie Wagner, Reed Gusciora, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Ruben Ramos to protect New Jersey residents from contaminated wastewater produced by the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”

“The last thing we need or want in New Jersey is the dumping of radioactive waste, especially the waste produced by someone else’s callous environmental practices,” said Wagner (D-Bergen). “Radioactive water can go elsewhere, especially places that promote and encourage this drilling practice for whatever reason. Protecting our residents and our natural resources should always be our first priority.”

Fracking is a drilling technique used to expand existing fractures or create new fractures in rock by injecting water, often laced with chemicals, sand, or other substances, and often under high pressure, into or underneath the surface of the rock, typically for the purpose of natural gas exploration and production. The wastewater can be polluted with contaminants such as radium, benzene, barium and strontium.

“The last thing we want is this radioactive water ending up in our streams and rivers where it can cause untold environmental and health problems,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer). “Even with federal regulators finally agreeing to take a look at this issue, it’s important that we make this move to protect both the public and our natural resources.”

The measure (A-575), approved by a vote of 56-19-4, would prohibit, in New Jersey, the treatment, discharge, disposal, or storage of any wastewater, wastewater solids, sludge, drill cuttings or other byproducts resulting from hydraulic fracturing for the purpose of natural gas exploration or production in any state.

“Given the relative newness of this practice, the total damage inflicted during and after drilling is still unknown,” said Vainieri Huttle. “But the evidence is already mounting that fracking comes with serious environmental consequences. If we allow fracking waste to be dumped into our water systems unchecked, we’re really playing Russian Roulette with public health.

The sponsors noted that the intent of the bill is to protect the environment and public health, safety and welfare, particularly if any contaminated wastewater ends up in rivers and streams.

“All of the evidence we’ve seen to date has shown fracking to be a reckless endangerment to our environment and to the health of the general public. Thankfully, New Jersey is not taking part in this destructive practice but we should not be forced to harbor the contaminants from other states that do. I’m pleased that our committee saw it fit to advance this bill today,” said L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex), Chair of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee, which approved the bill Thursday.

The measure now awaits final legislative approval by the full Senate.

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