Demonstrators rally in Westwood against ‘fracking’

Demonstrators from a slew of environmental groups across Bergen County took to the streets this morning in Westwood to rally against Governor Christie‘s move to veto a bill banning hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” waste in New Jersey.Janus Varela, of Bergenfield, walks with an anti-fracking sign during the rally in front of Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi's office on Kinderkamack Road.The clique of protesters from Pascack Sustainability Group, Food and Water Watch, Climate Mama and Suburban Foragers walked around carrying colorful signboards reading, “Don’t let frack waste poison our water,” “I love clean air” and “Ban Fracking Now. What the Frack” before they gathered around the grounds of the legislative office of District 39 Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, who voted in favor of the bill in June.

“We’re here to urge Assemblywoman Schepisi to vote ‘yes’,” said Matt Smith of Food and Water Watch, who organized the rally. “Complete caving to [the] oil and gas industry is unacceptable.” Smith passed around a petition to support a letter to the assemblywoman explaining why fracking needs to be banned and the “falsehoods” behind Governor Christie‘s decision to veto the bill.

Schepisi, who is part of the Environmental Solid Waste Committee, voted in favor of the bill in June, which passed in the State Assembly with a 56-19 and 30-5 by the State Senate. The Governor vetoed the bill in September citing a ban on fracking in the Garden State as an “ill-advised rush to judgment” as the state and the rest of the country “continues to wait for federal guidance on the issue.”

A sign that reads 'No fracking waste in the garden state' during the peaceful protest of Governor Christie's decision to veto the fracking waste ban bill.

“With all due respect to the governor, that position is inconsistent with some other issues that he supports,” said Roy Borgeson, a member of Food and Water Watch, who added his presence at the rally was over his concern for the long term safety of the state’s water quality. The organization works to ensure the food, water and fish consumed is safe, accessible and sustainably produced.

District 34 Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver – who is in charge of putting the bill on the agenda with Senate President Stephen Sweeney and setting a date to vote – could not be reached for comment as of press time. Sixty votes are needed for an override or 2/3 of the majority.

Despite the Governor’s decision, the protesters were looking to support Assemblywoman Schepisi and move to override his veto on banning fracking, loosely translated as the act of fracturing rocks to extract petroleum, natural gas or other resources. The act is used to stimulate groundwater wells, enhance waste remediation processes, and for heat extraction to produce electricity.

The downsides to fracking – an act the Governor also cited in a statement to the State Assembly that “is not occurring” and “unlikely to occur in New Jersey in the foreseeable future” – include posing detrimental effects to the environment that can compromise the quality of the air and water. The process reportedly is taking place in Pennsylvania and other neighboring states producing millions of gallons of toxic waste water that industries store, treat and discharge in New Jersey.

The demonstration in Westwood opposing the Governor’s move wasn’t the only one planned for today. Similar rallies were scheduled throughout the state in municipalities including Midland Park, Brick and Wayne.

“I’m here because I live in this neighborhood and I want my son to grow up healthy and not be concerned with contaminants in the groundwater and the soil, said Sachiko Goodyear, Marketing and Media Manager of Suburban Foragers, a community that teaches and practices sustainable living through wilderness activities. The Hillsdale resident has a home near the Pascack Brook where her son plays in the woods and fears for water contamination and said she didn’t want her son’s birthright to be taken away by “rapacious consumerism.”

“It would be wonderful to live in a world to splash in a stream and fish and not be concerned about getting poisoned,” she said.

For other protesters, the day was about raising awareness about the act.

“Most people don’t even know what fracking is,” said Ed Smith of Wanaque.

Karen Rossen of River Vale said, “It’s absolutely horrible. We need clean water. They’re poisoning people.”

Other protesters, which included a representative of the Wyckoff Environmental Commission, said they were against the idea of “trading clean water for cheap energy.”

Rosemary Dreger Carey of the Pascack Sustainability Group, said she was against the “extreme violent nature” of the act and for going into a future that prepares for extreme weather conditions, especially in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which others felt had a connection to the current Global Warming crisis.

Goodyear said, “If we plan to have a future, we have to start today, or we’ll be done in 20 years.”

 Cross Posted from North

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