N.J. tries again to keep fracking waste out of Garden State

 New Jersey Senator Bob Gordon, D-Bergen (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey Senator Bob Gordon, D-Bergen (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey lawmakers are making another attempt to ban the disposal, treatment, and storage of fracking waste.

The Legislature passed a similar bill to keep the wastewater from the natural gas-drilling process out of New Jersey two years ago, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it because of concerns it would be a violation of interstate commerce provisions.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Bob Gordon, is hoping Christie will agree to sign the new measure.

“This is constitutional,” said Gordon, D-Bergen. “It does not violate the interstate commerce clause because it is dealing with issues of safety, and the courts ruled under certain circumstances this kind of situation would not violate the commerce clause.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The Senate approved the ban Monday by a vote of 33-to-4. Environmentalists are urging the Assembly to pass it to prevent contaminants in the fracking waste from threatening New Jersey’s drinking water.

“We have no way of really knowing if this waste is coming into the state or not,” said Jim Walsh, regional director of Food and Water Watch. “It’s largely unregulated, and it’s actually exempt from federal hazardous waste laws even though this waste has been known to contain radioactive elements, known carcinogens, and heavy metals that are a threat to our communities and our drinking water.”

There is bipartisan support for the ban.

“What we’ve seen around the country is there’s real concerns about fracking, and I think there’s a lot of unknowns,” said state Sen. Kip Bateman, R-Somerset. “Until we know exactly about the possibility of contaminating the drinking water, I think we need to move slowly.”

No fracking is taking place in New Jersey, but environmentalists worry that the state could become a dumping ground for wastewater from states such as Pennsylvania where the natural gas industry is strong.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal