The debate over fracking and its environmental impact continues to be a flash point between environmentalists and the business community.
The advocates submitted a petition which they said had 20,000 signatures asking Christie to sign the bill, which would prohibit the discharge, disposal, treatment or storage of waste from hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking.
“He can either stand for clean water or he can stand for pollution,” New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said of Christie at a press conference announcing the submission of the petition.
However, Jim Benton, executive director of the New Jersey Petroleum Council, rejected the environmentalists’ description of the bill. He said fracking helps the economy by contributing to the affordability of natural gas, and that its byproducts are safe.
“We think the legislation is unnecessary, given Governor Christie’s commitment to do a full study of the standards involved in hydraulic fracturing and the experience we’ve had to this point in New Jersey,” Benton said.
The environmentalists pointed to a study by Dan Rozell of Stony Brook University that found that the greatest risk of pollution from fracking is during wastewater disposal.
Benton said industry standards are designed to prevent any pollution. He noted that natural gas is a key component of the state’s energy master plan.
Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said the state’s water treatment facilities aren’t equipped to treat fracking wastewater. “We here in New Jersey are a sitting duck, basically,” she said. She also said the state and country must move away from the use of fossil fuels, like natural gas.
Christie must decide whether to sign the bill before the state Assembly’s next meeting, which may occur in mid-September.