Ilya Marritz covers business for WNYC.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill to ban the controversial natural gas drilling technique known as fracking in the state on Thursday — but he ordered a one-year moratorium on the practice, saying he had concerns about the potential dangers to drinking water.
Christie said several studies of fracking are underway at the federal level and that he couldn't justify a permanent ban, particularly as drilling technology is improving.
"I believe it would be premature and ill-advised to impose a permanent ban while the [U.S. Department of Energy] and [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] are studying the issue, and without the benefit of the view of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection," Christie wrote in a letter addressed to the Senate.
"I believe that the better approach to the issue is to impose a one-year moratorium," Christie continued, noting that New Jersey has the nation's fourth-highest energy costs and might benefit from the harvesting of local gas resources.
The move is largely symbolic, because New Jersey lies just outside of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Conservation said no natural gas company has ever submitted an application to frack in the state.
Still, some environmentalists were angered.
"A one-year moratorium is an insult to the people of New Jersey," said Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "A year from now, the gas drillers could target the state of New Jersey, destroying our environment and jeopardizing our drinking water."
Industry groups are also criticizing the move.
“While the Marcellus Shale formation does not underlie enough of New Jersey to make it economical to produce ... this policy sends the wrong message,” said Kathryn Z. Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.