The 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.