No Area Safe From Fracking

by Walter Brasch

At the time New Jersey established a ban on fracking, it seemed symbolic, much like the moratorium in Vermont, which has no economically recoverable natural gas; the Marcellus Shale, primarily in New York and Pennsylvania, doesn’t extend into New Jersey.

New York has a moratorium on fracking until a health impact statement is completed.

Pennsylvania, rushing to compete with groundhogs in digging up the state, has no such moratorium. Nor does the state have any plans to conduct extensive research into the health effects of fracking-Gov. Tom Corbett, the gas industry’s cheerleader, cut $2 million from the Department of Health to provide for a public health analysis.

As it is, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie exercised his authority and partially vetoed his state’s moratorium to reduce it to a one-year ban. That moratorium expired in January.

During this past year, more evidence became public. Beneath New Jersey and extending into southeastern Pennsylvania lies the Newark Basin.

But, even then, New Jersey residents may believe they are safe. Although there was economically recoverable gas in the South Newark basin that lies beneath five counties in Pennsylvania, most of New Jersey is barren of recoverable gas in the North Newark Basin.

But, New Jersey isn’t safe, and there are four major reasons:

● (1) Independent scientific studies reveal both environmental and health effects from fracking. As every elementary school child knows, air and water pollution don’t stop at Pennsylvania’s borders.

● (2) Part of the Utica Shale lies below the Newark Basin, primarily beneath Sussex and Warren counties. To get recoverable gas would require significantly more water and toxic chemicals to be sent into the deeper shale, and would produce significantly more toxic wastewater, along with the resulting health and environmental problems. If drillers can see a way to profitably take natural gas from the Utica Shale, they will.

● (3) Even if there is no fracking in the state, New Jersey is a prime location for compressor stations and the large underground transmission lines from the Marcellus Shale to New York.  At least once a day, somewhere in the country, is a pipeline leak or gas explosion.

● (4) New Jersey is open to receiving toxic waste. Several hundred thousand gallons of frackwaste and drillings that were too toxic or radioactive to be left in Pennsylvania have been trucked into New Jersey to be processed and disposed.

“These plants aren’t designed to safely process this waste before dumping it into our rivers and landfills,” says Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

The New Jersey senate voted 30-5, and the assembly voted 56-19, to ban frack waste. The vote appeared strong enough to be veto proof, but, Gov. Christie vetoed it in June. The legislature hasn’t brought up a vote to override the veto, probably because some Republicans believe such an action could be politically embarrassing for themselves and the popular governor. That lack of action has left New Jersey open to being Pennsylvania’s dumping ground-and the continued butt of jokes from New York comics.

Gov. Christie’s veto wasn’t justified, says Carluccio, because “the main responsibility of the State is to protect residents’ health and safety and a ban on toxic frack waste would do exactly that. The Governor’s veto is an inexcusable cop-out without legal foundation, exposing New Jersey’s communities and drinking water to just what we don’t need-more pollution.”

Just as Pennsylvania residents who live outside the Marcellus Shale shouldn’t believe they are safe from fracking’s effects, neither should the people of New Jersey believe that just because wells don’t dot their landscape they also are safe.

[Dr. Brasch is an award-winning social issues journalist, and the author of 18 books. His latest book, Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting With Disaster, is available at local bookstores, www.greeleyandstone.com, and amazon.com.

RIP Frank Lautenberg

New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg passed away this morning.  A gentleman and unabashed liberal he championed the Garden State’s poor and working families in Washington.  I met him briefly in last year when he journeyed to West Chester, or, as he humorously termed it, “our western suburbs” to speak outside a Paul Ryan rally.  I recorded his comments that day:

NJ Gov. Chris Christie will appoint an immediate, short term successor meaning Democrats lose yet another Senate seat until a special election is conducted to fill the remainder of Lautenberg’s term (through next year).  

Millionaire Tax Didn’t Chase the Rich From Jersey, So Why Not a Higher Tax Rate on Pa.’s Top Earner

A blog post from Stephen Herzenberg, originally published on Third and State.

Anti-tax advocates maintain that higher tax rates on the wealthy lead to millionaire flight. But a study of a 2004 “millionaire tax” in New Jersey shows that, in fact, the rich don’t move to avoid higher taxes.

The new study was written by sociologists at Stanford and Princeton and published in The National Tax Journal. Economist Robert Frank reported on it in The Wall Street Journal, writing that the study “provides some of the most detailed evidence yet that so-called millionaire taxes have little effect on the movements of millionaires as a whole.”

The 2004 New Jersey tax increased the rate on those earning $500,000 or more from 6.37% to 8.97%. After the change, high-earners not subject to the tax (with income between $200,000 and $500,000) migrated out of state at the same rate as those who were subject to the tax. “In summary, the new tax did not appreciably increase out-migration,” the study concluded.

Even before this study, we knew that Pennsylvania badly needs to raise revenue to maintain critical services and investments in the future. We also knew that the top 5% of Pennsylvania earners pay an overall state and local tax rate that is about one-half that of the lowest-income fifth of taxpayers (see Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy data for Pennsylvania).

Raising the Pennsylvania tax rate on “unearned income” (including capital gains, dividends, and other non-wage income) by just 2 percentage points – from its current 3.07% to 5.07% – would raise $635 million. The rate on earned income could remain the same at 3.07%. The increase in the unearned income rate would mostly impact top earners in Pennsylvania but still leave the tax rate on unearned income far below the tax rates in New Jersey and most other neighboring states.

Social Networking with the 2009 Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates

( – promoted by John Morgan)

{First, a cheap plug for my blog Senate Guru.}

While 2010 will be chock-full of exciting races at all levels of government.  In 2009, though, there will be two marquee races across the country: the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey.  Republicans are favored in both races, but both races should come down to the wire, and Democrats can hold both seats – with your help.

In Virginia, Democratic State Senator Creigh Deeds won an impressive, come-from-behind victory for the nomination this past Tuesday, demonstrating a strong ground game.  The Republican nominee will be far-right-winger Bob McDonnell.  The best description for McDonnell’s brand of Republicanism is that he is a Pat Robertson disciple.  You can learn more about McDonnell at TheRealBobMcDonnell.com.  Deeds and McDonnell have tangled before, in the 2005 Virginia Attorney General race, where McDonnell barely edged Deeds by 323 votes (yes, just 323 votes – that’s not a typo with zeroes missing) out of over 1.94 million votes counted.  This race will be exceptionally close, so every single dollar contributed and every single hour spent volunteering will make a real difference.  A bit of good news is that the first poll taken after Tuesday’s primary, by Rasmussen Reports, shows Deeds with a 47-41 lead over McDonnell, but this could just be due to a primary bump.  Rasmussen’s last poll showed McDonnell leading Deeds 45-30.  Your support will help Deeds sustain his new lead.

In New Jersey, Democratic incumbent Governor Jon Corzine will square off against Republican former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie.  Christie is very much at home in the Republican Culture of Corruption.  Republican Christie has faced scandals involving no-bid contracts, abuse of the state pension system, pay-to-play, and even allegedly cutting a deal to get his younger brother’s sentence reduced after being implicated for fraudulent trading practices on Wall Street.  Despite Christie’s mountain of scandal, New Jersey’s lagging economy has hurt Governor Corzine’s poll numbers.  Recent polling gives Christie a 7 to 13 point lead over Corzine.  Research 2000, May 25-27: Christie 46, Corzine 39; Rasmussen Reports, June 4: Christie 51, Corzine 38; and, Quinnipiac, June 10: Christie 50, Corzine 40.  In other words, Christie has an edge, but the fundamentals of the race moving forward favor Governor Corzine.  As the economy gradually picks up over the coming months and voters learn more about Christie’s corrupt background, New Jersey’s blue state status will shine through and Governor Corzine should tighten the race back up.  Your support will help Governor Corzine tighten the race up even faster.

Below are the links to how you can connect with the gubernatorial campaigns (and – please – contribute anything you can to these campaigns, and spread the word!).  Republicans are expecting (and expected) to win both of these races.  However, after being upset in the NY-20 special U.S. House election and losing a U.S. Senator to a Party switch, the GOP is reeling.  Losing either (or both!) VA-Gov or/and NJ-Gov would be a major body blow and simply crush Republicans heading into the 2010 calendar year.  If Democrats across the country are able to support these Democratic campaigns, we can flush the conventional wisdom down the toilet and deliver two more embarrassments to the Rush-Newt-Cheney Republican Party and two more losses to the Michael Steele RNC.


Creigh Deeds for
Governor of Virginia
Deeds
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Deeds
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Deeds
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Jon Corzine for
Governor of New Jersey
Corzine
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Corzine
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Corzine
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Corzine
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