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Residents, activists and community leaders held coordinated actions across New Jersey yesterday to pressure legislative leaders into acting on the Fracking Waste Ban Bill. Notably, they collected and delivered more than 17,000 petition signatures in support of the measure to Assembly Speaker Oliver and Assembly Minority Leader Bramnick.
The Fracking Waste Ban Bill would protect residents by banning the disposal, treatment and discharge of toxic waste created through the process of fracking, a highly controversial natural gas drilling method. The legislation was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support last year but was vetoed by the governor in September. At various rallies today, activists dressed as ostriches, urging Oliver and Bramnick not to “bury their heads in the sand” but instead take immediate action to protect state residents.
“It’s very simple—the people of New Jersey want this veto overridden, and they’re expecting legislative leaders to act now,” said Jim Walsh, regional director of Food & Water Watch. “There’s nothing more important than the health and safety of New Jersey families, and an inundation of toxic fracking waste into our state would threaten that.”
New Jersey’s wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to handle the toxins found in fracking wastewater and cannot remove all the toxics before discharging the waste into public waterways. Fracking waste is exempted from critical federal protections regulating the disposal of hazardous waste and toxic materials.
“This is the most important clean water issue New Jersey has faced since the passage of the Clean Water Act 40 years ago. If we had fracking waste stored here when Sandy hit a disaster would have become an environmental nightmare,” said Jeff Tittel, director of New Jersey Sierra Club. “We already have enough toxic sites and polluted water, we do not need to create more through fracking waste. We need the legislature to stand up for clean water and against special interests by voting to override the veto.”
Analysis from the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services confirms the constitutionality of the legislation, directly refuting the governor’s claims to the contrary. A recent study from Stony Brook University finds that the greatest risk of contamination of drinking water and environmental pollution from the fracking process occurs during the wastewater disposal period.
“The legislature took a stand to protect our drinking water and communities from frack waste pollution with the passage of the Frack Waste Ban Bill. With the governor’s veto, the bill will die unless the legislature stands up again,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “We need all those who voted to prohibit the dumping of this waste to vote again to override the veto to prevent the pollution and health impacts that will result from this radioactive material.”
“This is an important vote—to protect our drinking water, to avoid enabling climate disruption in a post-Sandy New Jersey, and to bring hope to citizens that their representatives will put partisan politics aside and do the right thing,” said Dave Pringle, campaign director of New Jersey Environmental Federation. “It’s one thing to vote the right way when your vote’s not needed, but it’s another when your vote will be the difference maker.”
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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By Will Sarni
It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.
The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future
We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.
"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.
One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.
Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.
Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.
These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.
We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).
We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.
We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.
Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.
Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.
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