Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed legislation that would have banned the treatment, discharge, and disposal of fracking wastewater in the state, arguing that the bill violated the United States Constitution. This is the second time the governor has vetoed a prohibition on fracking waste since entering office.
The bill, known as S1041, which easily passed both houses of the state legislature with bipartisan support, would have forbidden the storage or release of fracking byproducts as well as their use on roads as de-icing agents.
Citing the legislation’s outright ban of fracking waste from any state, Governor Christie issued his veto on the grounds that the bill violated the dormant Commerce Clause. In his veto message, he argued that since no fracking operations currently exist in New Jersey, the bill was designed as an embargo on out-of-state waste, which “would have created an unconstitutional restraint on interstate commerce.” He also referenced his 2012 veto of similar legislation, contending “Dormant Commerce Clause jurisprudence has not changed in a way that would cause me to sign a bill that I previously rejected on constitutional grounds.”
Sponsors of the legislation argue the prohibition is necessary to safeguard the public water supply from becoming tainted by toxic chemicals sometimes found in fracking water. While conceding that fracking does not occur in New Jersey, proponents of the bill point out that at least three sites in the state have been used to dump wastewater from operations in Pennsylvania. Oil and gas industry representatives, however, counter by arguing that fracking water can be safely reused and recycled.
State legislators are currently weighing whether to stage a vote to override the governor’s veto. Senator and bill supporter Robert Gordon argued that the bill “could withstand any challenge on constitutional grounds,” as it concerned a matter of public health and safety.