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(c) 2018 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Preventing Occupational Disease: NJ Governor Murphy Supports a Fracking Ban

The State of New Jersey now supports a ban on fracking. NJ Governor Pat Murphy recognized the health and environmental consequences of using this process to explore and mine for natural gas.


The adverse occupational safety and health consequences of the use of fracking as a means to extract oil and gas by drilling into the earth surface have been extensively reported. The high risks include,: safety falls, being struck by objects, crush injuries, and exposure to silica, noise, heat/cold, and sunlight.
NJ Governor Phil Murphy

Historically, the exposure to silica evolved into the initial occupational disease covered by the workers’ compensation act. “In 1944, the New Jersey Legislature recognized asbestosis and silicosis as compensable diseases when “the disease was due to the nature of the employment”. Awards of compensation were to be made for death or total disability resulting from silicosis or asbestosis. The Act specifically removed claims for damages on account of death or total disability from silicosis or asbestosis from the tort system. In 1951, the special asbestosis and silicosis section was repealed by the New Jersey Legislature and its provisions were placed into a more encompassing and generalized “compensable occupational disease” statute reflecting a general awareness of the hazardous conditions of the workplace.” A sandblaster who was required to use several 100-pound bags of silica each day and who, as a result of the inhalation of silica dust, developed silicosis was awarded compensation benefits in the form of both disability and medical benefits. Sharp v. Paterson Monument Co., 9 N.J.Super. 476, 75 A.2d 480 (Co.1950). Gelman, Jon L, Workers Compensation Law, 38 NJPRAC 9.16 (Thomson-Reuters 2018). 

The attempt to contain employer and manufacturer liability from occupational diseases did not last for long as claims against the ultimate wrongdoers evolved into what has been the “longest running tort” of all time, asbestos litigation. See, (Third-Party liability) Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation, 493 F.2d 1076 (5th Cir.1973), certif. denied 419 U.S. 869, 95 S.Ct. 127, 42 L.Ed.2d 107 (1974) and (Direct employer liability for intentional tort) Millison v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, 101 N.J. 161, 501 A.2d 505 (1985), appeal after remand 226 N.J.Super. 572, 545 A.2d 213 (App.Div.1988), judgment aff'd 115 N.J. 252, 558 A.2d 461 (1989). Gelman, Jon L, Workers Compensation Law, 38 NJPRAC 9.22 (Thomson-Reuters 2018). 

Governor Phil Murphy today announced that he will join the Governors of Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware in support of a ban on hydraulic fracturing –a process commonly called “fracking”—in the Delaware River Basin.

Fracking is a process where a highly pressurized liquid is injected into the earth to fracture subterranean shale and extract natural gas or oil. The process has been linked to contaminated groundwater, increased the need for hazardous waste disposal, and other environmental effects.

“Fracking should not have a role in the energy future of New Jersey,” Governor Murphy said. “We must continue to protect our residents from the risk of contaminated water and protect our environment from the harmful effects of fossil fuel extraction. We will continue to move toward a clean energy economy that takes the best interests of our environment and our residents into account.”

In September 2017, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) approved a resolution directing the Executive Director to publish proposed changes to their regulations that would ban high volume hydraulic fracking in the watershed and discourage both export of water for fracking outside the Basin and import of fracking wastewater.

But under Governor Christie, New Jersey abstained from the vote, the only Delaware River Basin state to withhold support. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and Governor John Carney of Delaware joined Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf to vote in favor of a fracking ban.

Governor Murphy sent a letter to Governor Wolf, the chair of the DRBC, to affirm his support for a fracking ban and extend a commitment to upholding that ban as the DRBC moves toward a permanent decision on fracking. The DRBC has scheduled public hearings through March, and the Board is expected to consider adopting the proposed regulations at a public meeting thereafter.

“New Jersey will work closely with the DRBC as it continues its rulemaking process,” Governor Murphy said. “Moving forward, you can trust that New Jersey’s representative to the DRBC will consider all available information on this topic and act with a commitment to protecting our environment, natural resources, and the health of our citizens.”

Governor Murphy remains committed to growing clean energy in New Jersey and maintaining safe workplaces. The action to support a fracking ban is a significant step and will benefit all citizens and employers in New Jersey.

Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters).