Environmentalists cry foul, ask legislature to override Trenton Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the New Jersey Ban Bill on Thursday, Aug. 25, that would have made New Jersey the first state to ban hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in modern times. “This is a dismal day for New Jersey," said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper. "Gov. Christie had the opportunity to stand up for clean water and to protect present and future generations from the ravages of fracking in New Jersey, instead he opted for a political out, a conditional veto that opens the door to fracking and drilling in New Jersey’s future, including all the poisoning of the water, air, land and people it brings." New Jersey's 8.8 million people packed into an 8,722 square mile area make New Jersey the most densely populated state in the nation. The state Legislature passed the Frack Ban Bill by a sweeping majority on June 29, reflecting enormous public and constituent support for a ban on hydraulic fracturing in the New Jersey, the Riverkeeper pointed out. In the Senate the vote was: Yes, 33; No, 1; Not Voting, 6. In the Assembly the vote was: Yes, 58; No, 11; Not Voting, 2, Abstains, 8. Jim Walsh, the New Jersey director of Food & Water Watch, bemoaned the governor's decision. "Gov. Christie’s veto of New Jersey's fracking ban is disappointing to say the least. His veto is compromising the drinking water of New Jersey residents leaving it open to exposure to thousands of toxic, carcinogenic chemicals; threatening our once-protected public lands with destruction in pursuit of profit; and puting the interest of corporations over public health and safety. We look now to the New Jersey Legislature to override the governor's veto enacting a fracking ban, which could serve as a model for neighboring New York and Pennsylvania, where gas drilling companies are waiting anxiously to begin fracking across the states and in the Delaware River Basin." What's it all about? The concern about pollution and degradation from fracking began about three years ago when interest in gas drilling began in the Upper Delaware River Watershed in New York and Pennsylvania, where energy companies began buying up mineral rights to land underlain by Marcellus Shale. At least 200,000 acres of land has been leased for gas drilling in the Upper Delaware River region. Drillers must use hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” to force the gas out of the tight shale formations and they employ horizontal drilling to reach laterally into the layers of shale. While the companies that do the drilling say the process is safe, opponents cite a host of problems and potential problems: water and air pollution from drilling and fracking operations, water depletion due to the millions of gallons of water required to frack a well, and the degradation of streams, landscapes and habitat due to the large scale of natural gas development. In Pennsylvania, the state's Department of Environmental Protection's oil and gas program reported more than 11 violations of environmental permits per day by drillers so far in 2011, up from about 6 per day in 2010. New York State has a moratorium in place while it updates its environmental impact study to address hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. In Pennsylvania, gas drilling is proceeding in the Marcellus Shale. Utica Shale, now also being explored by energy companies, is located beneath the Marcellus and intrudes into northwestern New Jersey. While there is no drilling there now, there could be development of the Utica in the future. The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), the agency that oversees the water resources of the Delaware River Watershed, also has a moratorium in place while natural gas development regulations are being developed. Huge controversy has surrounded the gas rulemaking process with 69,800 comments filed with DRBC on their draft rules, a record number. Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) filed a lawsuit with other organizations on Aug. 4, to force the DRBC to conduct an environmental impact study and cumulative analysis of gas development in the Basin before issuing any regulations. For more information, visit www.delawareriverkeeper.org.