On June 29, the New Jersey Senate banned fracking within state boundaries in a 33-1 vote. Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is the environmentally-hazardous process through which methane gas companies extract what the industry touts as "America's Clean Energy Future," methane gas. The drilling industry's public relations term for methane is "natural gas."
While the ban is cause for celebration for those truly in favor of a "clean energy future," it is largely symbolic because only a tiny sliver of the Marcellus Shale actually touches the state. There is actually some truth to the statement made by Energy in Depth's Chris Tucker, who stated that the ban, by-and-large, is "irrelevant."
This is why anti-fracking activists can't afford to sit on their laurels. After all, momentum is on their side.
...While it is true that there is very little gas potential in New Jersey, the state’s decision to prioritize public and environmental health over oil and gas industry drilling may lead to similar moves in the future. There is already mounting pressure on the Delaware River Basin Commission to extend the ban to the waterways in New York and Pennsylvania that feed the Delaware River.
The Elephant in the Room: H.R. 1380, the NAT GAS ACT of 2011
While the state-by-state battles continue, a federal bill that would grant massive tax subsidies to the methane gas industry still sits idle in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Introduced on April 6, 2011 and written by methane gas industry insiders, the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act, or NAT GAS Act, currently has 182 bipartisan co-sponsors and has been referred to four committees.
There has been little legislative action on the bill since its introduction in early April, but we can rest assured that this will probably not be the case for long.
So while New Jersey's new ban on fracking is cause for some celebration, the fight is far from over, and we shouldn't pop the champaign bottles anytime in the near future.