Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a bill that would ban natural gas hydrofracturing, or “fracking,” instead proposing a one-year moratorium on the practice on the state.
If the bill had become law, New Jersey would be the first state in the country to ban the method, which is widely used in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale to extract natural gas. The practice has never been used in the Garden State.
With the conditional veto, Christie steered a middle path between environmental groups that advocated a complete ban and immediately opening up the state to fracking.
Christie emphasized that he is committed to protecting the state’s environment and drinking water sources.
“I am placing a one-year moratorium on fracking, so that the (Department of Environmental Protection) can further evaluate the potential environmental impacts of this practice in New Jersey, as well as evaluate the findings of still outstanding and ongoing federal studies,” Christie said in the statement announcing the veto.
He noted that two federal agencies are studying the environmental impact of fracking.
“The potential environmental concerns with fracking in our state must be studied and weighed carefully against the potential benefits of increasing access to natural gas in New Jersey,” Christie said.
The action immediately drew criticism from some environmentalists, with the New Jersey Sierra Club predicting the moratorium will have lapsed by the time gas companies are prepared to use the method in the state.
“Governor Christie would rather take the side of big oil and gas companies over the drinking water of the people of New Jersey,” said Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club director. He called the moratorium “a PR gimmick.”