New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill Friday (September 21) that would have banned the disposal of hydraulic fracturing waste in New Jersey, rankling environmentalists who oppose the method of natural gas extraction and fear that the wastewater it generates taints local water supplies.
“Governor Christie has sold out our drinking water to the fossil fuel industry,” Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said in a release. “Instead of protecting our waterways he is allowing companies to dump toxic fracking pollution in our waterways.”
The veto by Christie, a Republican, is his second major move against a fracking crackdown. In 2011, he vetoed an outright ban of the practice, a bill that found wide support in the state's heavily Democratic legislature.
Hydraulic fracturing isn't practiced in New Jersey. The state has few proven shale reserves and remains under a moratorium on the practice, which involves the high-pressure injection of millions of gallons of chemical-laced water deep underground to break apart rock and free the resources locked within. But the technique is widely used in neighboring Pennsylvania, which often sends its waste across the border.
Some of that waste is sent to landfills in New Jersey, though it's not clear how much. Two New Jersey landfills accept the waste, according to the online data tool FracTracker, Much of the waste is sent to Ohio and injected into underground wells, a practice that has been linked to minor earthquakes in the region.
The New Jersey bill would have banned the treatment, discharge, disposal or storage of hydraulic fracturing waste. But Christie called such a sweeping prohibition “premature,” saying it would undercut the state's ongoing study of fracking, expected to be completed in 2014.
On top of that, since New Jersey doesn't generate fracking waste of its own, Christie argued the bill discriminated against other states, a violation of the Dormant Commerce Clause of U.S. Constitution.
“By effectively operating embargo on out-of-state Fracking Waste, (the) Assembly Bill would be subject to strict scrutiny by the courts – a level scrutiny that is a virtual guarantee of its invalidity,” he wrote in his veto message.
Supporters of the legislation criticized Christie's legal analysis, pointing out the state's Office of Legislative Services had deemed the bill constitutional.
Perry Dane, an expert on constitutional law at Rutgers-Camden, however, found the governor's position plausible, according to the Star-Ledger.
“The Governor's reasoning actually sounds fairly persuasive,” Dane told the paper. “Does New Jersey ban other sorts of equally noxious dumping? If they decide the one thing they're going to ban is the thing that comes from out of state...I can understand that the Governor would have some legitimate doubts.”