New Jersey lawmakers are considering a ban on treating or storing waste products created by natural gas drillers.
A state Senate committee advanced a bill on Monday that would prohibit the treatment, discharge, disposal or storage of any wastewater, solids, sludge or other byproducts resulting from hydraulic fracturing, a technique commonly known as fracking.
The procedure injects water and other fluids into the ground at high pressure to break rock structures and free natural gas deposits trapped in them. Some of that water, along with large quantities of existing underground water, returns to the surface, and it can contain high levels of salt, drilling chemicals, heavy metals and naturally occurring low-level radiation.
The process has significantly added to natural gas supplies and lowered their price, but has also caused concern about water contamination and other environmental problems.
Favored by environmentalists and opposed by business groups, the bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
"We don't know what's in all this waste, and what we don't know not only can hurt us but do a lot of damage," said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
Tracy Carluccio of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said waste products from fracking are already being sent to and treated by New Jersey industrial facilities — often with little knowledge of what is in them.
Business groups said the bill is not needed, even as they defended the practice as beneficial to the nation's energy security and economic well-being.
Edward Waters, an official with the Chemistry Council of New Jersey, said hydraulic fracturing is "a game-changer" in the energy market.