Emphasizing his firm commitment to protecting New Jersey's environment and future economic growth, Governor Christie today issued a conditional veto of S-2576, recommending changes to the legislation that appropriately balance his commitment to protecting New Jersey's environment and drinking water and encouraging cleaner energy with the need for proper study of the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," in New Jersey. As currently written, S-2576 would permanently prohibit fracking in New Jersey, a drilling technique used for the exploration or production of natural gas, even as concurrent studies on the practice are underway by the federal government and no known natural gas deposits necessitating use of the fracking process have been proposed for development in New Jersey.
In conditionally vetoing the legislation, Governor Christie emphasized that he is committed to protecting New Jersey's environment and drinking water sources, but that significant facts and studies on the issue are still outstanding with the federal U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy. The Governor also indicated that the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has not yet fully evaluated the issue of fracking in New Jersey, leaving an incomplete public record on which to base a complete, permanent statutory ban.
"I share many of the concerns expressed by the legislators that sponsored this bill and the environmental advocates seeking a permanent moratorium on fracking. We must ensure that our environment is protected and our drinking water is safe," said Governor Christie. "I am placing a one-year moratorium on fracking 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."
Significantly, S-2576 was pushed through the legislature at the very same time that two federal agencies -- the Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Department of Energy (USDOE) -- were studying the environmental impact of fracking. While the USDOE issued preliminary recommendations over the past two weeks outlining immediate steps that can be taken to improve the safety and environmental performance of shale gas development, including the development of best practices, a final report by the USDOE is not expected until November 2011 and the preliminary findings of USEPA's study are not expected to be released until 2012.
"The potential environmental concerns with fracking in our state must be studied and weighed carefully against the potential benefits of increasing access to natural gas in New Jersey. The decision on whether to ban fracking outright or regulate it for environmental protection must be developed on the basis of sound policy and legitimate science," continued the Governor. "Therefore, while I share many of the concerns expressed by those who support this legislation, I believe that a one-year moratorium on fracking in New Jersey while the issue is studied by the USDOE, USEPA, and NJDEP is the most prudent, responsible, and balanced course of action."
As a cleaner and more cost-effective alternative to coal or oil, natural gas must play a significant role in New Jersey's energy future. Governor Christie's draft Energy Master Plan encourages the development of in-state, natural gas-fired electrical power not only to reduce New Jerseyans' energy costs, but also to protect our environment by eliminating the need for power from coal states and by accelerating the decommissioning of older, dirtier, and less efficient coal and oil-fired electrical generation plants in New Jersey. Natural gas is a much cleaner form of energy than coal or oil, emitting much less sulfur dioxide, fine particulates, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and greenhouse gases than those energy sources.
S-2576 was sponsored by Senators Robert M. Gordon (D-Bergen), Linda R. Greenstein (D-Mercer, Middlesex) and Christopher "Kip" Bateman (R-Morris, Somerset) and Assemblymembers Connie Wagner (D-Bergen), Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Ruben J. Ramos, Jr. (D-Hudson).