Princeton Council Moves to Ban Fracking

fracking-diagramThe town of Princeton wants to become the first municipality in Mercer County to ban hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

The governing body voted 5-1 last night to  introduce an ordinance that would ban fracking in Princeton. The public hearing on the ordinance and final adoption are scheduled to take place Sept. 22. The Princeton Planning Board will review the ordinance before the public hearing.

Councilman Patrick Simon cast the lone vote against the ordinance, because he said it was not clear to him why the town needs such an ordinance when manufacturing and drilling for oil and gas are already forbidden in Princeton. Originally he suggested the ordinance be expanded to include oil drilling and was told manufacturing is already forbidden in Princeton.

“If the town prohibits all of it already, then why do we need this?” Simon asked.

“It will make the ban even stronger than it is,” Mayor Liz Lempert said, adding that the Princeton Environmental Commission recommended the ordinance.

When Simon pressed the issue, Lempert became irritated and called for a vote.

A survey has identified up to 1.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the South Newark Basin, which includes Princeton.

“We do have a storage of natural gas underneath us,” Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller said. “It is that conceivable someone wants to use fracking to get to that. Fracking is wreaking havoc on communities across the country. If you care about the planet you want to stop it.”

Crumiller said even though the town ordinances ban manufacturing and the town already passed a resolution opposing fracking, companies could possibly obtain variances without the ordinance in place. There are no gas companies currently seeking permission to frack in Princeton.

Lauren Petrie of Food and Water Watch said Middlesex County is the only county in the state to ban fracking so far. She hopes the rest of Mercer County will follow in Princeton’s footsteps and pass a similar ordinance.

“Thanks for passing this, I hope it will spread too,” resident MaryEllen Marino said.

A student from Princeton University also voiced support for the ordinance and discussed how harmful fracking is to the environment.

Several other residents attended the meeting to express their support for the ordinance but the meeting lasted so long that they gave up and went home before the discussion took place. The council voted on the ordinance just before 11 p.m.


  1. It seems that the majority of the Council is simply interested in passing ordinances whether they are required are not. If there’s already a law prohibiting this, it would seem that Miss Lempert and crew are simply out to get press for being Do-Gooders; otherwise, there is no reason to ban the already banned.

    The idea that two laws prohibiting the same thing makes it “even stronger than it is,” implicitly recognizes that there’s already a law in place that accomplishes what this newly passed ordinance does. And, the notion that two ordinances are better than one, when they both do the same thing, is simply an effort to look busy.

    This is not good governance. This is make-publicity activity. One wonders, also, about the ban on wage theft, championed by Miss Howard. Was there any testimony taken or given, another anecdotal understanding, that there is, in fact, such a problem, and that state law does not already cover that problem.

    This council is simply out to promote itself by looking busy. Miss Lempert and Miss Howard’s political ambitions — rather than good governance — seem to be dominating the agenda.

  2. Aside from Mr. Simon’s (no relation) sensible statement and vote, does anyone know of any business concern that even plans in the distant future to do fracking within Princeton? As Mr. Simon stated, the ordinance is already covered by existing ordinances, so why is the Council spending its time on ordinances and measures that have no practical significance to this community.

    While the Council continues to congratulate itself for not increasing the municipal portion of our tax bill, wasn’t consolidation supposed to DECREASE the municipal portion of our taxes, which are already a financial hardship for at least some of us? Instead of wasting its precious time and resources on issues that are already covered by existing ordinances, shouldn’t the Council be focused on delivering on the unfulfilled budgetary promises of consolidation? What about the enforcement of existing noise ordinances as they relate to commercial landscapers or the imposition of more effective laws so that we can participate, at long last, in the QUIET enjoyment of our homes? What about finally addressing the matter of abandoned, overcrowded, and deteriorating homes in at least some of our neighborhoods that have not only become eyesores but potential health threats with negative impacts on the values of our homes in the more modest sections of town? Isn’t it time for the Council to begin to address issues that have a daily, negative impact on our lives?

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  3. It is my earnest hope that the Council enact an ordinance to enforce gravity.

    Even though there’s already a law to that effect, such an ordinance would strengthen that law. And this would ensure the zoning board would not grant a use variance to permit the violation of gravity, even though such a use variance would clearly be illegal spot-zoning, in light of the existing law of gravity.

    And, we’d be the first municipality in New Jersey to enact one, and Miss Lempert and 5/6ths of the would surely attract a lot of positive attention, since so many people are in favor of gravity.

    it’s a win-win!

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