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March & Rally at State House Calling for Override of Fracking Waste Ban Bill
Activists from Sierra Club, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Food and Water Watch, and a broad coalition of environmental, community, labor and faith-based groups from around the state joined together June 20, 2013 at a march and rally at the Statehouse, calling on members of the New Jersey Legislature to put in place protections against toxic fracking. The Legislature passed a bill last year banning the disposal, treatment, and discharge of waste created through the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas. However the Governor vetoed the bill in September and an override vote is needed to protect New Jersey against this toxic threat. The bill was posted for a vote the following Monday, but a vote did not take place. Over the summer and fall we will continue to work to get these protections in place.
The bill A575 passed the Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support and the Rally was held to urge those legislators to vote "yes" a second time to protect drinking water. Activists were joined by Ollie the Oily Ostrich on the State House steps, urging legislators not to bury their head in the sand to the toxic pollution from fracking waste.
The Rally and March were held just days after the Delaware Riverkeeper released new information about two facilities in New Jersey that have accepted fracking waste in the past. Their research found the Clean Earth Kearney facility took frack waste so high in radioactivity that it violated their permit and they were issued a Notice of Violation by NJDEP. Records show the Clean Earth Carteret facility also was sent radioactive frack waste. The LORCO facility in Elizabeth and DuPont in Salem County have also accepted waste produced through fracking operations.
This bill can protect our drinking water and environment from industry waste that can contain over 700 chemicals and radioactive materials. Earlier this year researchers at Duke and Kent State found that the wastewater produced in fracking "threatens to overwhelm the region's wastewater disposal capacity".
There is strong public support for the bill, with thousands of residents contacting the Governor's office and Legislators. Last week the coalition of organizations supporting the bill delivered 17,000 petitions to Assembly Speaker Oliver in support of the override vote.
The NJ Department of Environmental Protection recently revised guidelines on this type of waste but has not prohibited its disposal in New Jersey. NJDEP does not have a routine system in place to track this and waste tracking from other states is inadequate. AP reported in 2011 Pennsylvania could not account for the disposal method of 1.28 million barrels of wastewater (one-fifth of the annual total) due to faulty reporting.
New Jersey's wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to handle the toxins and radioactive material found in fracking wastewater and cannot remove it all before discharging the waste into our waterways. This could potentially lead to the discharge of dangerously high levels of harmful pollutants, including radioactive materials, into waterways and groundwater, and, in turn, into our drinking water. The New York Times found in 2011 wastewater was sent to treatment plants in Pennsylvania that could not handle the waste properly, resulting in the discharge of partially treated waste into waterways at 12 plants. The Pennsylvania DEP reports that between 2009 and 2012, radiation alarms went off 1,325 times at landfills - over 1,000 of those alerts were triggered by oil and gas waste.
Fracking waste is exempted from critical federal protections regulating the disposal of hazardous waste and hazardous materials. This free pass from important standards increases the risks to public health and the environment. There are also safety concerns with the transportation of the waste into and around the state. There could be accidental spills as fracking waste is being trucked to treatment plants and landfills harming local communities, water bodies and groundwater.
The Fracking Waste Ban Bill is constitutional and does not violate the U.S. Commerce Clause. The legislation does not prohibit transportation of the waste into New Jersey and it does not regulate commerce in other states, so there is no favoritism that harms out of state interests. The bill prohibits the treatment and disposal of all fracking waste in New Jersey, regardless of where it was produced.
The Fracking Waste Ban Bill passed the Assembly 56-19 and the Senate 30-5. For an override vote 27 votes are needed in the Senate and 54 votes are needed in the Assembly.
 Urbina, Ian. "Regulation lax as gas gas wells' tainted water hits rivers." New York Times. February 26, 2011
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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Page Last Modified 7/10/2013