NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The agenda for tonight's meeting of the Middlesex County government shows that they are planning to discuss a resolution against fracking, a dangerous type of gas drilling that was banned in New Brunswick and Highland Park earlier this year.
Though activists called it "a step in the right direction," they also said that the county's Board of Chosen Freeholders had shifted its preference from an ordinance to a resolution. Officials maintain that the resolution will effectively ban the practice and that the ban will be enforceable.
Fracking is a process whereby large amounts of water and chemicals are injected into rock, creating pressure which breaks open the rock and frees the oil or natural gas underneath.
Although the practice has enable companies to get to natural gas and oil that has long been considered inaccesible, the practice has led to numerous environmental issues.
At the November 21 board meeting, activists presented a letter and potential language for an ordinance to ban fracking.
The letter explained the basics of fracking, its dangers, its relatinship to New Jersey, and a call for Middlesex County to outlaw the practice.
"Each new fracked well needs millions of gallons of water to break rock formations that then resurfaces as wastewater with potentially extreme levels of harmful contaminants," the letter explains.
The letter was signed on by some two-dozen organizations, including businesses within Middlesex County and environmental and social activist groups, and including the New Brunswick Environmental Commission, New Brunswick Community Food Alliance, Environment New Jersey, NY/NJ Baykeeper, and Food and Water Watch.
According a 2011 publication from the U.S Geological Survey, the North Newark Basin, which holds an estimate 867 cubic billion feet of natural gas, runs under much of central Jersey, including Middlesex County.
"People are surprised to learn that there's shale under New Jersey," Petrie said. "People think it's a Pennsylvania and New York issue."
In September, Highland Park passed an ordinance to ban fracking, while activists in New Brunswick were gathering hundreds of signatures to force a public vote on the issue.
New Brunswick's City Council had, at first, appeared to support a ban. But after hedging for months, they spontaneously passed a ceremonial resolution that activists said was "worse than doing nothing."
If passed, the reslution would show that the Board of Freeholders does not support fracking, and effectively ban the practice in Middlesex County.
The Freeholders' meeting will take place tonight at 7pm in the Middlesex County Administrative Building at 75 Bayard Street in New Brunswick.
Tonight's agenda includes #13-2353-R, a resolution titled "Ban Hydraulic Fracking throughout the County of Middlesex and Urge Governor Christie to Support Legislation Banning Hydraulic Fracking throughout the State of New Jersey."
It is sponsored by Freeholder Director Ronald Rios of Carteret, and listed under the County Counsel's section of resolutions on tonight's agenda.