Round two as N.J. lawmakers push for a ban on fracking

    A bill to ban fracking in New Jersey has advanced following an Assembly committee vote.

    Opponents of the ban say fracking helps produce low-cost natural gas that benefits the economy.

    While current technology might not allow that type of gas drilling in the Garden State now, that doesn’t mean the possibility should be off the table, says Sara Bluhm with the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

    “We don’t want to see any limits on potential to lower the cost of business here in New Jersey or to bring future jobs here,” Bluhm said Monday.

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    A ban on the controversial extraction technique makes sense until studies prove the process is safe, says Assemblywoman Grace Spencer, chairwoman of the Assembly Environment Committee.

    “Yes natural gas is clean, abundant, the future, and is innovative,” said Spencer, D-Essex. “But none of that will matter if the people that are using it are sick and dying.”

    Gov. Chris Christie rejected the legislature’s previous attempt to ban fracking while awaiting federal studies on its safety.

    “There’s not a lot of drilling that’s going to go on in New Jersey,” said Assemblyman Peter Barnes, D- Middlesex. “But I think it’s important for New Jersey to be on the cutting edge on these types of issues and for New Jersey to take a stand when we doubt the safety of the technique.”

    A member of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey member, who opposes the ban, says the gas from fracking should be embraced as a benefit to the economy.

    “Access to inexpensive natural gas has led to a resurgence to the U.S. manufacturing economy and also it has been a game changer for our industry,” said Ed Waters. “We have seen jobs coming back to the U.S.”

    In neighboring Pennsylvania, the lucrative Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits have spawned a drilling boom.

    The Assembly measure now goes to the full Assembly for a vote. A Senate committee also has backed a ban on fracking in the state.

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