Cautious Christie

By: Peter M. Duncan

Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would permanently ban frac'ing in his state and also placed a one-year moratorium on the natural gas extraction process. The state will use this time to evaluate Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy reports on frac'ing.

The New Jersey Petroleum Council said, "Stringent industry standards and proper regulations can ensure the safety and security of the environment and we are committed to working with the New Jersey Department of Environmental protection during its analysis. A balanced approach to the development of our domestic resources can provide remarkable opportunity for New Jersey and our nation's energy security."

The Council is a division of the American Petroleum Institute, which represents oil and gas companies in the state.

Conversely, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an association of natural gas producers located in the Marcellus region, felt that the yearlong ban might adversely affect shale-gas production in the future.

"Our industry is deeply disappointed by Gov. Christie's decision. While the Marcellus Shale formation does not underlie enough of New Jersey to make it economical to produce, and no natural gas producers are actively seeking to explore for natural gas in the Garden State, this policy sends the wrong message to an entire nation benefitting from the responsible production of clean-burning, American natural gas," said Kathryn Klaber, Marcellus Shale president and executive director.

"Further, the governor's decision runs contrary to his understandable and laudable promotion of the expanded use of natural gas in his state's energy mix."

While I am very disappointed that a one-year ban was instigated, especially realizing the positive economic impact that other communities have experienced, I am also thankful that a permanent ban was vetoed.

We know that geoscientists and operators are working daily to raise the bar in safety and (to reduce) environmental impact, but we also know that uncertainty is in the minds of many about the frac'ing process.

This is not a "no, not ever" decision, as so many government leaders would like to issue, but rather a "let's review the information and make an informed decision" answer. Go ahead and we'll deal with what happens is never a good policy, in fact it's the antithesis of what the energy industry believes (despite what the media would like to sell you) and I applaud Gov. Christie's cautious, but optimistic, concern. Here's hoping it only takes a few months, and not a year, to dispel any misconceptions and start drilling!