Point Boro Supports Ban on 'Fracking' to Extract Natural Gas
Governing body unanimously passes resolution calling for state, Congressional reps to disallow practice
Point Borough has aligned itself with opponents of a controversial technique to extract natural gas that some say threatens drinking water.
The Borough Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday to urge a federal ban on hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," a process by which chemical-laden water is injected into wells at high pressure to force the fracturing of underground rock in an attempt to extract resources such as natural gas.
The resolution urges the state Legislature to ban the practice in New Jersey while asking Congressional representatives to consider banning the process outright.
"We realize the process ends up with wastewater," Mayor William Schroeder said. "What good is drinking water if it contains cancer-causing chemicals?"
The governing body initially tabled the resolution, urged by the Environmental Commission, in an attempt to further research the practice, which is not occurring in New Jersey. An anti-fracking organizer, Rachel Dawn Davis, delivered a presentation Tuesday before council's unanimous vote.
Davis, an organizer with nonprofit Food & Water Watch, told the council she advocates for a total ban on fracking, believing the potential environmental impacts outweigh any economic benefits, which the organization sees as dubious anyway.
"There are other ways to get energy," Davis said.
Fracking has been promoted as a "cleaner" alternative to coal and oil that enables drillers to get to resources buried hundreds to thousands of feet underground. Typically, a drill is powered into the ground, turned sideways, and directed through shale rock before chemically treated water is pumped to effectively blast the rock apart, freeing energy reserves to come to the surface.
However, Davis said the industry is "still largely unregulated," with much debate over which chemicals (and potential carcinogens) are being used in the process.
"The EPA doesn't even have a definitive answer yet" on which chemicals are used, Councilman Robert Sabosik said.
The state already has tried to ban fracking in New Jersey, but a successful bill was conditionally vetoed last year by Gov. Chris Christie, who instead imposed a one-year moratorium designed to further study the environmental impact and economic feasibility of the practice. That moratorium is set to expire in January 2013.
The borough's resolution says that "since the New Jersey Legislature originally acted to ban fracking, the case for a ban on fracking is strengthened by a U.S. EPA report of fracking fluids in an aquifer in Pavilion, Wyoming, and separate incidents involving earthquakes in Ohio linked to fracking waste disposal using injection wells" in its argument to ban the practice.
While initially implemented in less densely populated states in the south and midwest, fracking has gained controversy in recent years as the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and New York has been actively drilled. While New Jersey is not known to have any significant natural gas reserves, Davis said actions in neighboring states pose a threat to all.
"Even if it's not happening in our communities, it's affecting our communities," said Councilman Christopher Goss, who joined the rest of council in largely agreeing with the position of Food & Water Watch.
Several played devil's advocate, questioning Davis on whether the council should consider potential economic benefits created by enlarged natural gas reserves and the jobs that come with establishing drilling operations. But Davis said the social costs outweigh any economic considerations.