Middlesex Hypocrisy on Fracking in New Jersey Won’t Matter

Fracking - Tom ShepstoneTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.


Recently, Middlesex County, New Jersey, voted to ban fracking. The action was inconsequential as no one has any desire or reason to drill there anyway. It reveals the stunning hypocrisy and shallowness of urban Northeast politics which, in the end, matters not.

Middlesex County is located a short distance south of Newark, in the heart of the New York metro region.  It was home to 809,858 people in 2010, has a population density of over 2,600 persons per square mile and, geographically, is the population center of the most urban state in the nation.  There is a shale formation underneath it all, the Newark Formation, but there’s no place to put a well pad.  Therefore, the action of the County Freeholders to ban fracking was a completely symbolic act, a mere demonstration of intentions for the purpose of soothing very small and politically minds, which all that urban politics amounts to these days. Facts, logic and results play no role; only intentions matter.

Facts have a way of eventually catching up with politics grounded in emotion. Middlesex County politicians probably won’t pay any price for their craven action, but reality will intrude in a different way as Middlesex businesses and homeowners vote with their wallets and otherwise act in their own self-interests. Nothing about the freeholders’ action has changed the laws of economics or human nature, which is ultimately about enlightened self-interest.

Consider this chart, which plots how Middlesex County homeowners heated their homes at the time of the 2010 Census:


Some 233,395 or 82% of Middlesex’s homes were heated with natural gas, even higher than New Jersey as a whole, which is 74% (compared to 49.5% nationwide). Energy Information Administration data indicates 41% New Jersey electricity is also made with natural gas. Altogether, then, we can safely say 87% of Middlesex County’s householders rely upon natural gas in one form or another. Finally, given the role of shale gas, the size of the Marcellus Shale play and New Jersey’s proximity by pipeline to the Marcellus we also know that’s mostly fracked gas going into those homes.

Yet, the Middlesex County Freeholders moved to ban fracking in what everyone admits is nothing but a symbolic action. The debate was nothing less pitiful, as this article from last month demonstrates. Here is some of it (emphasis added):

Pittsburgh had found radioactivity in its drinking water from the fracking industry, he said. Other towns had fracking waste storage tanks explode, contaminating the local community.

Fracking would affect businesses in New Brunswick as well, he said.

“[It’s] actually destroying jobs,” he said. “It would hurt the development of natural resources such as the cutting-edge solar energy field. It would also hurt tourism, which is really important in northern New Jersey with camping and hiking.”

The extractive industry was boom-and-bust, he said. They would initially come in with investment money, but they would leave the community with environmental and economic problems.

Elliot Warren, citizen’s outreach director for Environment New Jersey, said Pennsylvania wastes 1.2 billion gallons of water per year because of fracking, he said. The material waste product of fracking has been proven to be radioactive.

Warren’s father was almost killed while inspecting a leaking fracking pipeline that exploded.

“These people are more concerned about their pocket than they are about the citizens of the state,” he said.

Craig Garcia, a worker for New Labor, an organization that aims to improve worker conditions, said he had talked with other members of his organization and found them concerned about the quality of water in the town.

“Even if this is mostly a symbolic measure, it would send out a good signal to the public,” he said.

After the freeholders passed this resolution, Food & Water Watch planned to help pass bans in other communities, the state and the country.

Caral Bellante, a Middlesex County freeholder, said she was definitely against fracking.

“I don’t think it’s good for the residents of Middlesex County… it appears to be dangerous,” she said.

Pretty bad, isn’t it? “Fracking waste storage tanks” that somehow explode and contaminate entire communities is perhaps the most infantile suggestion.  Every accusation made, in fact, is easily refuted with a few minutes of research. The entire discussion reveals a woefully (and willfully) ignorant group of activists, led by Food & Water Watch and the usual suspects. They essentially bullied the Freeholders into taking the bizarre position the natural gas county Middlesex County residents use in greater proportion than almost anywhere else is somehow “dangerous.”

This, of course, is the strategy of Food & Water Watch and other like minded pawns of elitist special interests; pounce on communities with no potential for fracking and get them to take meaningless positions against it to create a wave of opposition.  Food & Water Watch is a radical group that opposes nearly everything, including bottled water use and genetically modified crops. It is financed by “more than 25 Big Green foundations” to do this sort of thing all over the country. Among those foundations are the Park Foundation, which gave Food & Water Watch $250,000 in 2013, $290,000 in 2012 and $510,000 in previous years to gin up “local campaigns” against fracking and the like.

Meanwhile, Middlesex County is already served by hundreds of miles of “fracking pipeline” (depicted below) and distribution lines these professional protestors suggest are a threat:

Screen Shot 2013-12-27 at 7.11.21 AM

“Fracking Pipeline” Serving Middlesex County (Doesn’t include distribution lines)

Think I’m kidding about the professional protestors thing? Check out this Craig’s List ad:

Screen Shot 2013-12-27 at 7.19.14 AM

This is what the Middlesex County Board of Freeholders fell prey to in their mad rush to jump on the NIMBY bandwagon with nary a thought to the incredible hypocrisy of their actions. Still, it’s important to keep it all in perspective. This was nothing but a cheap little political stunt of no lasting meaning whatsoever. Why do I say that? Well, check out this post by my Energy In Depth colleague Steve Everley. There are no words (except “Happy Holidays”); just charts that tell the only story that matters. Here is the one for the Marcellus Shale that’s keeping those Freeholders warm this winter:

Fracking-Marcellus-NG Production

While the Freeholders sat there voting to ban the fracking keeping them warm they might have also considered what it was doing to save them money and clean their air (with multiple double-digit declines in carbon emissions for New Jersey power plants). They know all of this, of course, but they put it out of their minds to appease a vocal minority funded by outside interests, which is how urban politics is done these days, as spineless politicians far removed from the production of the resources on which they depend seemingly vote against their own interests.

The key to understanding this, however, is that they also know the vote doesn’t matter.  It was pure Northeast political theater and meanwhile CNG stations are being built in Middlesex County to further spread the benefits of fracking.  So, Food & Water Watch and the Middlesex County Board of Freeholders can play all the fundraising and political stunts they wish, but Middlesex County will be using more natural gas than ever, all due to fracking. What a country!

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12 thoughts on “Middlesex Hypocrisy on Fracking in New Jersey Won’t Matter

  1. Not so ” irrelevant ” for those that are intelligent enough to know the NG extraction process will NEVER be totally safe or predictable and there will always be those that are affected by NG drilling and have issues caused by it .Once that happens it will be a long hard fight to get compensation .All your hype has No answers for this .If the NG industry was as responsible as they claim they would take care of all the issues that come up instead of trying to blame everything else except themselves disturbing deposits that have been stable for thousands of years .Want details I can elabrate……..I’m sure you jave an irrelevant answer right !!

  2. I would like to see youir details and the documentation outside of your anti fracking library of BS Bill. In Other words show me non industry and non anti scientific proof and please keep the accusations to yourself as they support no science at all. The drilling industry by six sigma guidelines has surpassed any other industry in the world with an exellent safety record

    • all you need to know is BULL !! It’s there and logic supports it too .You think you can drill a hole in the subsurface and not have possible problems .This right there is the problem .Variables always exist .Except in a fantasy book .Oh and I have also seen actual issues people have had too .Casings mean diddley when drilling intial .bores .Only fools believe this .

  3. Those who protest American energy stand in favor of higher energy bills for our poorest urban residents, blood-for-oil wars (mostly fought by enlistees who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds) and Russian subjugation of eastern Europe. They also stand for the paving of our forests one 30×50 concrete wind-turbine pad at a time, the legalized killing of eagles and the rare earth metal strip mining that comes with wind and solar.

    So, thanks New Jersey for doing your part for Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China and the celebrity overlords of New York.

    • HaHa ….what a line of non sense !! American energy is far from the plan .Profit is !! All about making quick profit . People are just in the way !!

      • People are in the way Bill ?? It’s people like you and me who use this energy. If we weren’t using it they wouldn’t profit would they Bill ?? Plus you forget all the other things that we use in our everyday lives that were manufactured using oil and natural gas byproducts. You stop using all these things then you can tell us all about how wonderful your life is as you live in your cave naked and twirling sticks for fire for heat.

        hyp·o·crite noun \ˈhi-pə-ˌkrit\

        : a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs

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