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October 03, 2013

New Jerseyans Tell Governor No Fracking Way


New Jersey Sierra Club activists have been bird-dogging Governor Chris Christie at his appearances around the state, calling on him to reverse his policies on fracking and fracking waste. Last year, Christie vetoed a bill that would have banned the disposal of toxic fracking waste in the Garden State. He also conditionally vetoed a bill that would have permanently banned fracking in New Jersey, promoting instead a weak one-year moratorium, which has now expired.


The Club's New Jersey Chapter joined forces with Food and Water Watch, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the New Jersey Environmental Federation, and other grassroots groups for three bird-dogging events in September, and another this week in Newark. Four more are planned for later this month, including at two gubernatorial debates. "Where the governor goes, we go," said Greg Gorman, a volunteer leader with the chapter.


Above and below, bird-doggers at Rutgers University, where Christie was speaking at a September 19 ground-breaking ceremony for several new university buildings.


"You cannot build a future based on fracking," New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel (at center in jacket, above), told the ralliers, who chanted and held aloft signs with slogans like Ban Fracking Now, Frack No, and Keep the Frack Out of Our State.

"It's good to see that all of New Jersey is here," said Christie, who wants to build three new natural gas-fired power plants in the state by 2015.


This summer, the Sierra Club joined a coalition of environmental, community, labor and faith-based groups from around the state for a march and rally at the Statehouse in Trenton, calling on members of the New Jersey Legislature to put in place protections against toxic fracking.


"There is no issue that threatens our drinking water more than fracking," said Tittel. "The threat of fracking waste being dumped in our waterways puts us all at risk. Governor Christie needs to stand up for clean water for the people of New Jersey and stop his opposition to the fracking waste bill. He should stop blocking Republican legislators from voting to override the bill, then it would pass overwhelmingly. He needs to stop siding with the Big Oil and Gas companies and instead do his job and protect our waterways."

Below, left to right, Tittel with New Jersey Chapter activists Bob Moss, Alison Petryk, Chapter Exexutive Committee Chair Ken Johanson, and Skylands Group Conservation Chair Greg Gorman.


There is currently no fracking in New Jersey, but oil and gas companies want to drill in the Delaware River Basin in New York and Pennsylvania, and about 2.9 million people in New Jersey depend on the Delaware for drinking water. The gas-drilling boom in Pennsylvania has already produced more than 1.3 billion gallons of contaminated wastewater, and chemical companies have started bringing some of that waste into New Jersey. In response, the New Jersey Legislature last year passed a bill with overwhelming bipartisan support to ban the disposal of fracking waste in the state, only to see Governor Christie veto it.


"Without clean air and water there is no future," Tittel said. "If Governor Christie does not deal with climate change, we will not be able to move New Jersey forward. We need a sustainable future, and that does not include fracking."

"Allowing fracking and fracking waste in New Jersey opens a Pandora's box," said Gorman. "We already subsidize fossil fuel distribution in the form of environmentally disruptive power lines and pipelines. Accepting fracking waste in addition will jeopardize our communities' health and threaten businesses and industries that rely on clean water."


New Jersey Chapter staffer Kate Millsaps said there has been good press coverage at all the bird-dogging events, "and we've heard from people 'on the inside' in Trenton that we are being quite effective."

Gorman thinks Christie can be persuaded to change his stance if he looks at all the evidence. "Despite the advanced technology now being used to extract natural gas, we continue to suffer extreme levels of pollution. As a finite resource, natural gas will only become more expensive. Solar and wind technologies are renewable, and they're becoming more efficient, reliable, and affordable every day -- and New Jerseyans support them. We need to throw off the shackles of fossil fuel and encourage the proliferation of clean energy initiatives -- the true bridge for economic self-sufficiency and global sustainability."

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