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New Jersey Assembly Committee Approves Fracking Wastewater Bill

Nov 29, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP

A New Jersey State Assembly panel has Ok’d a bill that, if it becomes law, would ban the disposal or storage of hydraulic fracturing wastewater anywhere in the state.  While the bill likely won't pass before the end of the Legislature's lame duck session, backers of the bill told that it would still serve to highlight New Jersey's strong opposition to fracking.

Fracking is a controversial method of natural gas extraction in which millions of gallons of chemical-laced fracking fluids are injected into the ground at high pressure to shake loose gas deposits.  The process also produces millions of gallons of wastewater that may either be stored in underground injection well, sent to wastewater treatment plants and discharged into rivers and streams, or recycled.

Currently, no fracking is taking place in New Jersey.  However, fracking for natural gas is booming in nearby Pennsylvania, and there are plans to bring hydraulic fracturing to the Delaware River Basin in the northeast part of that state.  The Basin provides drinking water for millions living in the Northeast, including New Jersey.  Earlier this month, the Delaware River Basin Commission postponed adopting a new rule that would lift a moratorium on new drilling operations there, in the wake of vigorous opposition.

The fracking wastewater bill passed the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee by a 4 to 1 vote, with one abstention.  Those on the committee who favored the bill were not swayed by industry claims that fracking wastewater poses no environmental or health threats.

“Until such time as we are reasonably convinced of the science of the affluent [wastewater from fracking operations] is safe, we should put a brake on it," said Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex), the chairman of the committee, according to

As passed by the Committee, the bill prohibits wastewater treatment facilities from treating fracking wastes, something environmentalists argued most treatment plants are not equipped to do.  According to, the Committee struck a provision dealing with the transportation of wastewater over concerns that would violate federal commerce law. 

According to a report from the New Jersey Star-Ledger, the bill has little chance of actually becoming law.  The Senate Environment and Energy Committee is scheduled to discuss the bill later this week, but does not plan a vote on it. If it does not get through the full Legislature by the end of the session, proponents will have to reintroduce it and restart the process.

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