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Does Collingswood Need to Ban Fracking?

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing asked the borough to consider formally banning the practice for the sake of sending a bigger message.

David Hodges (left) told borough commissioners why Collingswood should formally outlaw fracking. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.
David Hodges (left) told borough commissioners why Collingswood should formally outlaw fracking. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Collingswood borough commissioners got a local dose of national issues Monday when a small group of activists asked the body to consider a formal ban on fracking and fracking waste.

They were led by Collingswood resident and Farmers Market Director David Hodges, who presented commissioners with sample language for a formal resolution to declare such a ban.

Acknowledging that it was a token gesture, Hodges nonetheless pointed out that 27 other towns in New Jersey have taken a formal anti-fracking position.

"I’d like to find out what motivated the 27 localities to ban it if it wasn’t something they'd do either," he told commissioners.

Collingswood Mayor James Maley, who earlier in the evening had alluded to climate change as a reason to expand the 100-year-old seasonal hours of Roberts Pool, said that the issue of fracking is something for the state to decide.

“In my time we’ve never done any resolutions on issues that are at a government level that don’t affect us,” Maley said. 

"My view is not pro-, anti-," he said; "it’s simply we don’t deal in environmental regulation. It’s just not what we do.

"We catch bad guys; we pick up trash. We don’t regulate the environment. We don’t regulate mining."

Commissioner Joan Leonard said she would stand shoulder to shoulder with anti-fracking activists on a picket line, "to do anything we can to make fracking go away from the country.

"No one should be subjected to anything related to fracking," Leonard said; "it’s poison. 

"But I don’t know what our role is," she said. 

After the meeting, Celia Castellan, an organizer with Food and Water Watch of South Jersey, said that Collingswood shouldn't ban fracking because there's a necessarily a chance that it would ever come to town.

Rather, she said, enough communities going on record with a ban demonstrates a groundswell of opposition that can drive broader change.

Castellan and Hodges both pointed out that New Jersey towns like Cartaret, Elizabeth, Kearney and Deepwater are already handling fracking waste

The New Jersey of her childhood was known for being a toxic waste state, Castellan said, and she didn't want to see those days again.

As mayor of Collingswood, Maley has taken a position on national issues before.

Last year, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Maley signed on to a nationwide mayoral effort calling for more restrictive gun laws

He is also a signatory to Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, which advocates “to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the protections, responsibilities, and commitment that marriage brings.”

But Maley sees the fracking issue as one above his pay grade. 

"The reason I don’t know anything about it is because it’s not in my responsibility as a commissioner in the borough of Collingswood to do it," he told Hodges during the meeting.

In the mayor's view, the borough adopting a formal resolution on fracking is distinct from him being a personal cosigner to such open letters.

notworthreading August 07, 2013 at 10:08 PM
Personally, I find asking the borough to take a stand against fracking to be a meaninglessly empty gesture. We must go further. We should ask the borough to eschew the cheap natural gas that has flooded the market. We can't be hypocrites, people, and we can't stop at RESOLUTIONS when there is a REVOLUTION to be had! If collectively we must bear the burden of higher energy costs to, albeit not stop the practice of hydraulic fracturing, but at least send the natural gas to other parts of the country and world, well, at least our collective conscious will be clean even if our wallets will be lighter and our overall impact will be little to none. I want to thank the advocates for this cause for their very well-thought out plan and I ask them to push further for meaningful change not chump change.
Veritas August 12, 2013 at 11:13 AM
What the frack? I think I actually agree with the mayor on this one.
Seth August 14, 2013 at 10:31 AM
Clearly these so-called activists have too much time on their hands if they're pestering borough commissioners about this. The commissioners don't have any power over this issue, so its inappropriate for them to legislate. If the environmental activists want to make a difference, they should be working at the state level on this issue. This is just a waste of everyone's time except for Matt, for whom it provided a ready-made story.
Matt Skoufalos August 14, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Seth, that's a bit of a reductionist attitude, especially because I'm reporting on the events of a public meeting.

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