Gov. Phil Murphy gave his full support for a hard ban on any fracking and fracking waste in the Delaware Water Basin, a move which drew widespread praise Wednesday afternoon from environmental groups.
Murphy, in a Jan. 28 letter to Steven Tambini, executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission, said the total ban would protect the drinking water of 13.3 million residents in the surrounding region which includes Delaware, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“Fracking poses risks to the Delaware River Basin that New Jersey cannot accept,” Murphy said in a statement accompanying the letter. “The chemicals present in fracking wastewater are still unknown and we must take caution to protect the recreational, ecological, and water resources for the millions of residents and businesses who rely on a clean Delaware River Basin.
Formally called hydraulic fracking, the controversial process involves deploying a liquid deep underground to crack open rocks that contain oil and natural gas. The liquid deploy contains sand, water and chemical components such as gels.
Its use has fallen under criticism from environmentalists because of environmental effects, groundwater contamination, public health concerns and insufficient hazardous waste disposal.
The letter was also sent to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Pennsylvania Gov.Tom Wolf and Delaware Gov. John Carney, who are all commissioners, as well as Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Milhorn, the federal representative.
Murphy said he wants the ban to include the treatment and discharge of fracking in the basin.
In February 2018, Murphy threw his support behind a ban on just fracking, which advocates such as Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, said was not enough because the proposal still allowed for the discharge of waste into the basin.
“He’s clearly supporting an outright ban on fracking and fracking waste, and the hope is that this…can turn the tide for New Jersey and the other member-states,” O’Malley said Wednesday.
“If you allow fracking waste to be discharged in Pennsylvania, that’s going to end up in the Delaware watershed and ultimately in our drinking water” O’Malley said.
Jeff Tittel, director of the environmental advocacy group the New Jersey Sierra Club, called Murphy’s Wednesday announcement “an important step forward.”
“This is great news for the Delaware River in protecting our precious water supplies,” Tittel said. “Coming out in favor of a complete ban on fracking in… is a real step forward. Now that it’s being addressed, we need to help push the other governors to go along with it.”
Meanwhile, lawmakers are considering legislation, Senate Bill 678, which would ban fracking and any of the ensuing waste in the entire state.
The state Senate approved S678 in a 31-5 vote at their Oct. 29, 2018 session. The bill was referred to Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee on Nov. 26, 2018 but has not moved anywhere since then.