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Fracking Vote Postponed

Date : Fri, 18 Nov 2011 10:19:38 -0500

        For Immediate Release
November 18, 2011 Contact: Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100 Fracking Vote Postponed DRBC Vote on Monday is Delayed

Today, the New Jersey Sierra Club calls the postponement of the Delaware River Basin Commission's (DRBC) vote on natural gas development regulations a victory for clean drinking water. The vote was to take place on Monday but was delayed as the measure did not have enough votes to pass. If the regulations were adopted they would have lifted the moratorium on gas drilling, allowing the dangerous gas drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing of fracking to be used in the region. Over 700 chemicals are used in fracking, many of them toxic, potentially threatening the drinking water supply for 15.6 million people in the Basin, 5% of the nation's population. Last week environmental groups delivered over 71,000 letters to the Commission members. More than a quarter of a million people have submitted comments, petitions, and letters opposing these rules. This now gives us an opportunity to work even harder on Governor Christie and President Obama to make sure the moratorium does not get lifted and that the rules are based on science if they do move forward.

"This is a real victory for grass roots activism. Because of public outcry the DRBC vote has been delayed. The delay helps protect the drinking water for 15 million people by keeping the moratorium in place. As long as there is a delay, we can continue working toward getting a permanent ban on fracking in the Delaware basin," said Jeff Tittel, Director of New Jersey Sierra Club.

This is the third delay so far in adopting the rules. The public comment period on the regulations ended in April and on November 7, 2011 the DRBC issued the final rule proposal with substantial changes and weakenings. They cut back on buffers for stream protections and eliminated oversight. No public comment is being taken on the rule changes. There are currently 10,000 leases on hold in the Basin that could move forward if the regulations are adopted. The National Park Service estimates 35,000 wells could be constructed in the Basin.    

"Sierra Club applauds the delay in the DRBC vote. This is an environmental win for clean water and for our region's clean energy future. Governors Cuomo and Markell have sided with the best interests of the public over Big Gas companies. Instead of playing politics with our drinking water supply, these leaders have stood up to big polluters to protect our public health," said Jeff Tittel.

The Sierra Club along with other environmental and community groups opposing fracking and 61 New Jersey legislators have called on the DRBC to hold off on adopting the rules until a number of federal studies on fracking are completed. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to complete their investigation on fracking's safety by 2014. Preliminary results have found that fracking chemicals contaminated drinking water supplies in Wyoming. The Sierra Club urges the DRBC to not reschedule the vote until those studies are complete.

"The DRBC proposed rules before the science and studies were complete. Not only were the rules weak but they got weaker without any public comment and that's why the rules need to be stopped. Governor Christie needs to stand with the water supply for the people of New Jersey instead of with Big Gas companies," said Jeff Tittel. Fracking is currently exempt from several major federal environmental laws including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, Right to Know and Safe Drinking Water Act under what is know as the Halliburton loophole in the 2005 National Energy Policy Act. There are currently bills before Congress to bring fracking back under those laws but the gas industry is lobbying hard against them. If fracking were truly safe why would they be fighting so hard against regulation? While the DRBC has decided to delay action on their natural gas development regulations, New Jersey still needs stronger protections from fracking. Governor Christie conditionally vetoed legislation passed over the summer to ban fracking in New Jersey. He weakened the ban to a meaningless one year moratorium that places no limits on water withdrawals for fracking from New Jersey waterways and does not stop the treatment of fracking wastewater at New Jersey treatment facilities or their eventual discharge into our waterways. By outright banning fracking in New Jersey would have ensured the safety of our water supply and protected forested ecosystems throughout the state. The Legislature is considering an override vote to minimize the impacts of fracking on New Jersey if the DRBC adopts the rules at a later date.

"Governor Christie should follow Governor Markell's lead and stop these rules. We need to keep the pressure up on Governor Christie and the Obama administration to stop these weak rules from moving forward," said Jeff Tittel. DRBC notice at: http://www.state.nj.us/drbc/newsrel_naturalgas111811.htm

-- 
Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
609-656-7612
Received on 2011-11-18 07:19:38

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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