Bloomberg reports that lawmakers in both houses of the New Jersey state legislature have passed an outright ban on the gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing. We’ve reported on the possible dangers associated with the practice. There has been no official effort to stop hydraulic fracturing in Arkansas. New Jersey lawmakers have apparently decided fracking isn’t worth the risks posed to state water supplies and public health. The move is somewhat of a preemptive strike. There are currently no ongoing hydraulic fracturing operations, but the northwest part of the state sits right on top of the Utica shale formation.

“We want to get this in place so that New Jersey will be off-limits,” Assemblywoman Connie Wagner, a Democrat from Paramus and a sponsor of the measure, said in an interview. “There are regulations in place and it’s not working. We are seeing one accident after another.”

U.S. gas output expanded 20 percent in the past five years as the process let drillers extract the fuel from shale formations in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Pennsylvania once considered impenetrable. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is studying fracking, in which millions of gallons of chemicals are injected underground, for possible impacts on drinking water. The EPA said results are expected in 2014.

Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is apparently moving to lift a temporary ban on fracking in that state.


PS — As promised, Sheffield Nelson today said he’d given the attorney general a revised version of a proposed ballot measure to impose a 7 percent severance tax, stripped of current exemptions, on natural gas and to direct some of the money to city street repair.