We all depend on energy to heat and cool our homes, fuel our cars, and for carrying out many of our daily activities. No source of energy can be harnessed and consumed at the rate which we demand without some net environmental impact, including renewable sources of energy like wind and solar. There are, however, measures that can and should be taken to minimize environmental harm. At the same time, we must aggressively pursue ways to increase efficiency and substantially decrease our consumption of both energy and natural resources.
- Hydraulic Fracturing
- Renewable Energy
Natural gas extraction by hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” has exploded in the region and New Jersey has a stake. Chemicals injected into the ground during the fracking process are largely undisclosed to the public, receive no oversight from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and are capable of impacting drinking water. While New Jersey itself does not have substantial natural gas reserves, impacts from extraction activities of neighboring states like Pennsylvania and New York that share the Delaware River Watershed are of concern.
A number of bills have been introduced in both the Assembly and Senate on the issue, many of them seeking to prohibit the practice altogether or at least until studies are conducted. Once such bill that permanently banned fracking in the state passed both the NJ Assembly and House but was conditionally vetoed by Governor Christie who instead proposed a 1-year moratorium. There are also a number of current legislative proposals and administrative actions to more closely examine the the effects of hydraulic fracturing. For example, our affiliate, the National Wildlife Federation, has been active in working towards mandatory disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking fluid. Also, the EPA is conducting a scientific study to investigate the possible relationships between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water.
NJ Audubon encourages ample time to study the effects of fracking so that safety can be ensured for water, wildlife, and people. Applying the precautionary principle in ecological risk assessment dictates that all further activity associated with natural gas extraction be delayed until the decision can be informed by a complete basin-wide study, EPA’s complete study, and the full disclosure of fracking chemicals.
Resources: EPA Natural Gas Extraction - Hydraulic Fracturing, EPA Drinking Water Study, EPA draft permitting guidance on diesel fuel in fracking
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Traditional energy sources contribute to global climate change, habitat change and degradation, smog pollution, mercury contamination in our waterways, and radioactive waste. Renewable energies such as wind, solar, and geothermal provide cleaner, emissions-free energy, comprising an increasingly critical component of our energy future. At the same time, we must be cognizant of the potential negative impacts of these technologies to wildlife and natural habitats. Direct impacts such as wildlife mortality associated with construction or operation of renewable energy structures (e.g. collision of birds and bats with wind turbines) and indirect impacts such as habitat loss and habitat fragmentation are of concern. Proper siting, monitoring, and policy informed by wildlife considerations are critical to ensure that renewable energy development in New Jersey minimizes negative impacts to wildlife and succeeds in bringing us closer to a more sustainable future.
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