Fracking Waste Ban Veto Raises Question Of Override

Lawmakers passed a bill that would ban fracking in the state but Gov. Christie vetoed the bill.

By Michael Hill

New Jersey doesn’t allow hydraulic fracturing or fracking for natural gas but it does allow the wastewater produced by fracking in Pennsylvania to be transported to sites like this one in Kearny for treatment or disposal and at least once that wastewater trucked to New Jersey registered radioactive levels that exceeded the site’s permit.

“We need to protect our clean drinking water, we need to protect our communities and make sure that the toxic fracking waste which is causing problems every where it’s gone, does not destroy New Jersey,” said DEP Director Delaware Riverkeeper Network Tracy Carluccio.

New Jersey lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to ban receiving fracking waste but late Friday afternoon, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill, saying a ban would violate the U.S. constitution’s interstate commerce clause.

But, two years ago, the NJ Office of Legislative Services said the ban would not violate the U.S. constitution.

“So I think the governor is hiding behind it as political cover but that’s not real,” said NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel.

“New Jersey already being dumped on enough from in state and out of state. We can’t handle any more,” said Clean Water Action Campaign Manager Dave Pringle.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection says at this point, no one is accepting fracking wastewater in New Jersey — but it does concede it is legal to do so.

“We found documents in Pennsylvania DEP that document waste coming to New Jersey and this waste is highly unregulated so we know more waste could be coming in to the state that we’re unaware of,” said NJ Food and Water Watch Jim Walsh. 

The DEP accuses environmental groups of “Trying to do a national agenda in New Jersey.” DEP says “We’re not a player in this. There’s just nothing happening in New Jersey.”

New Jersey lawmakers have never overridden a Gov. Christie veto. Bill sponsor Senator Bob Gordon says history can show why.
“There is a culture of retribution that just permeates this administration. My Republican colleagues know and they’ve seen examples of this in the past that if you cross this governor, there’s pay back,” said Gordon.

On whether there is enough to override the veto, Environment NJ Director Doug O’Malley said, “This is going to be a tough road in the New Jersey legislature and the reason I say this because the industry has a lot of influence here.”

Environmentalists say the fracking wastewater ban bill won legislative approval here with enough votes to easily override the veto but they know an override vote is a different beast and raises the question of whether enough lawmakers have the will to do it.

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