Last week, New Jersey’s Legislature passed legislation that affirmed the state’s involvement in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and banned the natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Neighboring New York, meanwhile, is poised to lift a moratorium on new shale gas drilling, and France has become the first country to ban fracking.

New Jersey Measures: Likely a Temporary Win for Environmentalists

Given that Republican Governor Chris Christie had called for pulling out of RGGI, it seems unlikely that he will sign the resolution, passed by both state houses, supporting New Jersey’s continued participation in the 10-state greenhouse gas emissions trading program.

As for the other legislation seen as a win for environmentalists, Bloomberg noted that if Gov. Christie signs the New Jersey anti-fracking bill, "it will be the first statewide ban on fracking in the U.S." The ban passed 32 to 1 in the Senate and 56 to 11 in the Assembly, with two abstentions, Bloomberg reported.

Not surprisingly, America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) issued a statement expressing dismay about the decision. It said, in part, "While New Jersey may not have significant supplies of natural gas, even a symbolic ban on hydraulic fracturing is an irresponsible step."

New York Reconsiders Fracking

New York, on the other hand, has more substantial shale gas deposits, which makes any decision permitting or preventing shale gas development more material. On July 1, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released the executive summary  of a "Preliminary Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS)" that it is to be released this Friday. The Draft SGEIS addresses permit conditions required for gas drilling in Marcellus Shale.

The DEC said that the final SGEIS "will apply statewide, except in areas that the Department proposes should be off-limits to surface drilling for natural gas using HVHF [high-volume hydraulic fracturing] technology. As explained below, these areas include the watersheds associated with unfiltered water supplied to the New York City and Syracuse areas pursuant to Filtration Avoidance Determinations issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (‘EPA’), reforestation areas, wildlife management areas, state parks, and ‘primary’ aquifers as defined by State regulations, and additional setback and buffer areas. Forest Preserve land in the Adirondacks and Catskills is already off-limits to natural gas development pursuant to the New York State Constitution."

With its tighter monitoring of wastewater disposal and other process streams, disclosure of chemicals used to the DEC, and other environmental controls, the new SGEIS is expected to tighten environmental protection while allowing the state to maximize the benefits of shale gas development.

The document to be released July 8 is deemed "preliminary" because, the DEC said, "it omits a number of areas of analysis that are still ongoing and will be finalized later in 2011 and incorporated into this draft."

France Bans Fracking

Last Thursday, France’s Senate passed a law banning fracking for shale oil and gas, making it the first country to ban the exploration technique.

Bloomberg reported that "Energy companies that plan to use fracking to produce oil and gas in France will have their permits revoked and its use could lead to fines and prison, according to the law passed by a vote of 176 in favor, 151 against by the senators in Paris."

Oil companies operating in France spoke out against the ban and raised the possibility of lawsuits.

Sources: Bloomberg, njtoday.net, ANGA, New York DEC, Platts