Lawmakers may refuse to treat fracking-related wastewater
Opponents claim effort to ban on fracking water to be a misguided, environmentalist maneuver.
Thursday, December 1, 2011 - 21:06
POINTLESS?: Lawmakers have proposed a bill banning the treatment, disposal or storage of wastewater from fracking in New Jersey, where no fracking actually takes place. (Photo: Bosc d’Anjou/Flickr)
In many a previous post, I've written about the controversial oil and natural gas extraction method called "fracking." Essentially, the method relies on using pressurized fluid to create fractures in rock, thereby releasing the oil and gas. The controversy surrounding the technique isn't about the process itself, rather the composition of the fluid. There is widespread concern that the fluid could contaminate groundwater, which would then pose a health risk to millions of Americans.
Fracking has not been an issue in New Jersey, because, according to Matt Friedman at the Statehouse Bureau, "no fracking has been done in New Jersey and there are few locations where it would even be viable, but it's widespread in parts of Pennsylvania," the state home to the Marcellus Shale, which contains large natural gas reserves. However, this has not stopped fracking from becoming an issue in New Jersey. Just this week, according to Friedman, "an assembly panel has approved a bill to ban the treatment, disposal or storage of wastewater from fracking in the Garden State."
The fact that no fracking is done in the state has some people thinking that the effort is an environmentalist power play. New Jersey Chemistry Council Executive Director Hal Bozarth, an opponent of the measure, noted that "it is my opinion that those who are proponents of this bill are the same ones who oppose fracking in Pennsylvania," and the purpose of the effort is to give environmentalists ammunition to ban fracking in other states. He went on to note that the fluid is more than 99 percent water and sand and that the "vast majority" of the chemicals are harmless.
While there is general consensus that fracking does contaminate ground water, there is as of now no documented case proving it, according to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. The way to stop or minimize fracking is definitely not by refusing to treat water exposed to the technique. Rather, a much more effective method would be to finally prove that fracking does indeed contaminate ground water and that it is in fact a serious health risk to millions of people all across America.
According to Friedman, while the bill has now advanced through committee, it is unlikely to end up on the governor's desk before the legislature's session ends in January.