New Brunswick becomes second city in state to ban fracking
Residents of New Brunswick erupted into cheers and applause last night as New Brunswick became the second city in New Jersey to ban fracking at last night’s city council meeting.
Lauren Petrie, an organizer for the Food and Water Watch, addressed the city council on the significance of a fracking ban in New Brunswick.
“In Texas, they’re hydrofracking next to schools and shopping malls,” she said. “People think you can’t do it in a major city, anywhere that the industry thinks they can profit, they will do what they have to do, whether it’s next to a middle school they don’t care.”
Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a process in which tons of chemical-filled water is pumped into the earth as a way to extract natural gas. This releases hundreds of toxic chemicals, and Petrie said she sees no reasonable benefits.
She said these chemicals should be nowhere near drinking water. In states like Wyoming, Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania, fracking is causing thousands of cases of water contamination.
“In Colorado, we saw a few weeks ago that the major floods that were happening,” she said. “If you were reading the news, there were many hydrofracking sites and waste pits that were washing down into communities.”
Petrie said if a storm as impactful as Superstorm Sandy were to hit again, nothing would protect city residents from the kind of devastation that can be created when it is mixed with toxic hydrofracking waste.
In the area, 1.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas sit beneath the earth — $12 billion to be made by the gas and oil industry if fracking is allowed, she said.
Petrie made a closing plea to the council, asking them to ban fracking in the city.
“On behalf of the 500 residents here in New Brunswick who signed the petition to ban fracking, on behalf of folks that are here tonight,” she said. “We urge you to protect our health, our community, our water and our future. We urge you to ban fracking here in New Brunswick.”
After more pleas for a fracking ban from Rutgers students and community members alike, City Clerk Daniel Torrisi called on each council member to vote, and fracking was banned in the city of New Brunswick.
When the council moved on, Brian Kempf, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said he is part of a small percentage of students who commute between campuses via bicycle.
Kempf said he noticed that the entrance point to the John Lynch Memorial Bridge is very dangerous.
“There’s a distance between the street and the bike path, and there’s a 25 mph speed limit on cars coming southbound on George Street, but it seems as if those speed limits are often disobeyed,” he said.
To get his bike on the path, he said he has to lift it up, forcing him to be in the street for an extended period of time. Kempf said this is dangerous for himself and other bikers. The bicycle path is not maintained well, with garbage and plants encroaching on the space to ride.
“I know that the council has taken a lot of steps to improve bicycle use within the city, and I very much appreciate that. It just seems that this area is being overlooked,” he said.
Glenn Patterson, director of planning, community and economic development for New Brunswick, validated Kempf’s concerns.
“He’s right. It’s not a good situation here,” Patterson said. “That’s not the city’s jurisdiction. … When you go on to the bridge there that’s state highway jurisdiction.”
The issue has been discussed with the Rutgers Department of Transportation, and Patterson said it is something that needs to be looked at for the success of the bicycle network the county is installing next year along George Street.
Charles Kratovil, editor of New Brunswick Today, asked if the city has a clear policy for when the Nixle System is used by the Police Department and when it is not used.
Police departments use the Nixle System to alert the public to dangers, emergencies and situations that might cause alarm, according to an article on the Barnegat-Manahawkin Patch.
Kratovil said the Nixle System was not used to alert the public of a bomb threat in an elementary school or a fatal motor vehicle accident, but instead to alert the public to coyotes in Buccleuch Park.
City Council President Rebecca Escobar asked Kratovil why the police department should use the Nixle System to alert the public about a fatal motor vehicle accident.
She said residents will get tired if they receive too many alerts.
“I’m glad we’re having this discussion,” Kratovil said. “It benefits the community to come up with a policy that clearly states [when the Nixle System will be used].”