Highlands Property Owners, Fracked Again
If there is one bill that has been passed by the New Jersey Legislature that qualifies as the greatest land grab ever by elected officials in the state it is the “Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act” of 2004. This legislation, which was sponsored by state senators and assembly members who did not live in the affected area, effectively depressed the market values of land owned by citizens in those regions covered by the act. Further it appointed the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as the enforcement agency to implement the act. This is the same DEP whose motto might as well be, “No Development Is Our Type Of Development”. Now a possible remedy that might allow these landowners to recover some of the lost value of their properties is close to being denied them.
Senator Robert Gordon (D-38) a resident of Fair Lawn in Bergen County, an area that is not part of the Highlands region is once again trying to have his bill, “S246 - Prohibits drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing” passed. This bill would prohibit “Fracking” anywhere in New Jersey. What he does not want to tell anyone though is the only place in New Jersey where “Fracking” might take place is in Sussex, Warren and Hunterdon counties, the very counties covered by the “Highlands Act”. Once again representatives that do not live in the effected areas, want to control them.
I am preparing a series of posts that will cover the topic of “Fracking” in detail but for right now there is the possibility that gas (or oil) bearing shale might lie under the areas in the northwest part of the state. Unlike the current drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale layer, there is another formation that lies over 10,000 feet below the surface known as the Utica Shale layer. The following map shows the estimated areas of the country that Utica Shale is estimated to be:
As you can see, the experts feel that a portion of the layer does indeed run under the areas that have been designated as the Highland Area. Currently the only active drilling in the Utica shale layer is being done in Ohio. In this region (excluding New Jersey) the active drilling is being done in the Marcellus layer. This does not mean in the future that the Utica layer will not be actively explored and developed, since many experts feel that it will produce as much if not more gas than the Marcellus layer will. This could be an answer to the prayers of landowners in the northwest part of New Jersey since it might allow them to recoup some of the value of their property that was stolen from them by passage of the Highlands Act.
The following state senators have sponsored or co-sponsored Gordon’s bill:
Linda Greenstein (D) Mercer
Chris Bateman (R) Hunterdon
Loretta Weinberg (D) Bergen
Jim Whelan (D) Atlantic
Diane Allen (R) Burlington
Jennifer Beck (R) Monmouth
Shirly Turner (D) Mercer
Barbara Buono (D) Middlesex
Nia Gill (D) Essex
Except for Bateman none of the others represent counties in the Highlands (Turner has a small portion of Hunterdon, but being from Trenton she could care less) but they feel that it is their right to steal from the landowners in that area. This is the same type of tactic that was used to steal the vast land areas that once belonged to the Native Americans in this country. Unlike the events that occurred in the 1800’s in this country though, in 2012 the government should not be allowed to steal from its citizens, no matter what type of justification they try to use. The Highlands Act was the first theft from the people in the Highlands area, Gordon’s bill should not be the next crime committed on their property rights.