Coventry Fracking Waste Ban Passes
Coventry, Conn. – On Oct 2, 2015 Coventry voters passed an ordinance banning fracking waste at a special town meeting. The vote was passed by almost unanimous support with more than 90 people attending. The local law bans waste from natural gas or oil drilling and extraction activities, including hydraulic fracturing or fracking, within the town.
"We applaud the town of Coventry, Connecticut in joining hundreds of other towns throughout the country in banning fracking wastewater from their community,” says Jen Siskind, Food & Water Watch Local Coordinator. “Coventry has taken a critical step in protecting citizens from dangers associated with wastewater produced by fracking. Fracking waste poses a huge threat to people's drinking water and health, and today is another step toward protecting the health and safety of Connecticut residents.”
The ordinance states waste may not be physically placed or spread on any road or real property. Storage, disposal, sale, acquisition, handling, treatment and processing are also prohibited, including any waste sent to wastewater treatment or solid waste facilities. No Fracking Waste Coventry, a group of Coventry residents, initiated the action. The group researched local laws passed in Connecticut and New York. They drafted a proposed ordinance and circulated a petition calling for a ban. The town council called for the special meeting after the signatures were submitted and verified with the town clerk.
Connecticut has a current moratorium temporarily banning fracking waste. The law requires the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to study the issue and submit regulations for review between July 2017 and July 2018. Regulations could be submitted that support a permanent ban or that allow permits to dispose of this waste in Connecticut.
Reverend Michael Ader joined the groups efforts. “When I read that the State might bring this waste in, I knew I had to get involved. I love this town. I picked it 38 years ago for its beauty. I have a well and don’t want a spill happening down the street that will ruin everything. It’s not just for me, it’s for generations that come after me. We can’t poison their environment.” Chemicals used for fracking are known to cause cancer, organ damage, neurological problems and birth defects. The waste is contaminated with these chemicals and naturally occurring but highly toxic materials buried in the ground, including heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, arsenic and radioactive Radium 226.
Coventry is now the second town in Connecticut to pass a ban, preceded by Washington, Connecticut.
“Over the last several months we’ve had the privilege of talking with Coventry residents about banning fracking waste,” says Jasmine Wolf of No Fracking Waste Coventry. “People have been enthusiastically supportive of our effort. I was hoping 100 people would show up but I really didn’t expect the vote to be almost unanimous. A big thank you goes to all who signed the petition or voted at tonight’s meeting.” “We are thrilled with the outcome of our months-long effort to protect this beautiful town of Coventry. It was truly a community-wide team effort and an excellent example of democracy at its best,” says Cathy Cementina, who helped spearhead the campaign.
April 9, 2015
As fracking has increased in Pennsylvania, so have levels of radon in area homes, according to a study published April 9 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
April 3, 2015
Quakes Shaking Oklahoma Due to Fracking Wastewater Wells, Scientists Say; but Governor Still Waiting for ‘Sound Science’
As more and more fracking wastewater has been buried deep underground near fault lines in Oklahoma, the number of earthquakes in that state has soared -- now shaking one-fifth of the state, reports the New York Times. But political leaders there are loathe to blame, or regulate, the “golden goose” industry. The governor has set up a council, which meets in secret, to gather information about the quakes, but it has no mandate to make recommendations. And both houses of the state legislature this year passed bills prohibiting local officials from regulating oil and gas wells. Click here to read the article.
Washington CT First In State To Ban Fracking Waste
March 5, 2015
At a town meeting on March 5, 2015, Washington CT voted unanimously to ban the storage, treatment, or sale of fracking waste in their town. The ordinance authorizes the board of selectmen to enforce the ban. About 50 people attended the meeting. The ordinance can be found here; the background sheet from the Washington, CT, Environmental Council can be found here.
Fracking Waste: To Regulate or to Ban? That Is Still the Question
This piece was written for the Northwest Conservation District.
Fracking policy has been a flash point in Connecticut politics, even though the state has about zero opportunities to frack, that is, extract from rock the much-sought fossil fuel, natural gas (mostly methane). By contrast, some nearby states, especially Pennsylvania and New York, are rich in productive or promising fracking sites.
Fracking (short for “hydrofracturing”) for natural gas is especially controversial among advocates for clean water. The process involves injecting large quantities of water (about five million gallons per well) into rock (in particular, carbon-rich Marcellus shale). The water is mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, including biocides, to facilitate the mining process, and then is injected below ground under pressure to break open cracks in the rock and release trapped gas.
Despite the large-scale loss of water, fracked natural gas was hailed by the petroleum industry, political leaders, and environmentalists as the holy grail of energy policy: cleaner, cheaper, more reliable power. Over the past dozen years, as fracking spread and intensified, doubts grew about the “cleaner” claim; but environmentalists still tended to favor natural gas as a useful bridge fuel on the way to more truly green, non-fossil sources, such as solar and wind power. Unfortunately, serious problems with fracking and the distribution of the gas continued to emerge.
The water used in fracking becomes highly contaminated, due both to the materials mixed into water for fracking and the additional contaminants picked up underground. These underground contaminants include lethally concentrated salts, arsenic, and radioactive materials. Thus far, no practical methods have been developed to clean the waste adequately for disposal in surface water. Disposal in clusters of deep injection wells is associated with small earthquakes.
What to do with the waste has become an urgent question for the industry.
In New England, in 2012, Vermont stepped up and passed a ban on both fracking and the disposal of fracking waste; the ban is to be revisited in four years if fracking proves to be safe. In Connecticut, anti-fracking sentiment also surged, and a significant number of environmental advocates and allies in the legislature began to call for a similar ban. From the beginning, the governor’s office and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) made it clear that they would prefer no explicit attacks on fracking or even on the importation of fracking waste. They did not want to “send the wrong message.”
In 2013, efforts at anti-fracking legislation went nowhere. But in 2014, similar efforts led to high-energy policy fights that continued until the last hour of the legislative session. At the outset, a ban on fracking itself was dropped as an issue and the focus moved to whether Connecticut would accept fracking waste for treatment or disposal. The greenest legislators and most committed advocates declared for a ban. DEEP asked for regulation. Very early, it became clear that few if any legislators would hold out for a ban. Neither the administration nor business interests wanted a ban. Pressure steadily increased on all parties to back off a ban and negotiate for a moratorium on waste importation. Compromise draft succeeded compromise draft, and environmentalists, with various degrees of reluctance, acceded to the compromises, until the final draft, which appeared to rule out any prospect of a ban in the future and to explicitly direct DEEP to write regulations. Environmental groups withdrew their support. But when the bill was poised for passage and then did pass, the environmental community generally acknowledged that legislators had worked hard for a moratorium, that there are relatively substantial protections in the bill, but that a ban on fracking waste should still be the goal.
Public Act 14-200, AN ACT PROHIBITING THE STORAGE OR DISPOSAL OF FRACKING WASTE IN CONNECTICUT, sets a three-year moratorium on the importation of fracking waste. The regulations are described thus in a summary by the Office of Legislative Review.
“The act requires DEEP to submit regulations to the Regulations Review Committee for approval after June 30, 2017 and no later than July 1, 2018. Until the regulations are approved, activities involving any wastewater, wastewater solids, brine, sludge, drill cuttings, or any other substance generated as a part of or in the process of fracking as well as products derived from or containing any of these wastes are prohibited in Connecticut. The regulations must (1) subject these wastes from energy production to the state's hazardous waste management regulations; (2) ensure any radioactive components of fracking waste do not pollute the air, land, or waters or otherwise threaten human health or the environment; and (3) require disclosure of the composition of the waste. But the DEEP commissioner has discretion to not adopt regulations under certain conditions [full disclosure of the components of the waste or of other information requested by DEEP].
The act prohibits the sale, manufacture, and distribution of de-icing and dust suppression products derived from or containing fracking waste until DEEP adopts regulations controlling these products.”
Most readers can probably imagine many ways in which this regulatory approach may fall short. Environmental groups will have plenty to do tracking the development of the regulations and the movements of waste transports. Rivers Alliance has been looking at two questions in particular. Why wait years to subject fracking waste to the state’s hazardous waste regulations? That could be done now. Pro-mining federal lawmakers passed a federal rule that bars the categorization of any mining waste as hazardous; it can melt your Geiger counter but it’s not hazardous under federal law. States do not have to follow that rule. Connecticut adopted the rule but could drop it immediately, in fact, could have dropped it last year. There is also a question as to whether our hazardous waste facilities are capable of handling highly toxic fracking wastes and whether our regulators have the resources to enforce stricter rules (or even today’s rules).
Finally, there’s the question of why it’s a “wrong message” to ask fracking industries to meet high health and environmental standards. One reason it’s wrong is that high standards cost more, and then fracked gas wouldn’t be a cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable. It would be a more expensive and politically undesirable.
Fossil fuels, including natural gas, are unlikely ever to be clean, cheap, and reliable. They will continue to emit greenhouse gases, heat the planet, and foul water. No fuel source is perfect. But let us push hard on Connecticut policy leaders to make a dramatically stronger commitment to, and investment in, non-fossil fuels.
Margaret Miner, E.D., Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, September 23, 2014
On August 18, 2014, the governor signed Public Act 14-200, An Act Prohibiting the Storage or Disposal of Fracking Waste in Connecticut. The celebratory event was at Farm River State Park in East Haven, in the district of one of the legislative leaders on this issue, Rep. James Albis. Present, in addition to Gov. Dannel Malloy and Rep. Albis, were DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee; Sen. Ed Meyer (the leader in the Senate); Sen. Joseph Crisco; and Representatives Lonnie Reed, Dante Bartolomeo, and Tony Hwang. Also present were a number of environmental advocates, including representatives from Rivers Alliance.
The bill sets up a three-year moratorium on the import of fracking waste, during which DEEP is mandated to study the issue and write regulations. People differ on whether the bill is adequately protective, which probably hinges on the state's ability to write and enforce strict, science-based regulations. Some see the bill as a step toward a total ban. Some see it as a step toward regulation -- regulation that may be problematic with respect to water quality and human health. Some think regulation can be made fully protective.
Let us know what you think about the bill.
The governor made a strong demand that industry disclose the components of any fracking waste it wants to import into Connecticut.
He said, "Lacking full disclosure, this legislation needs to become a permanent ban." This is an extremely important commitment.
Here is a link to a video of the governor's remarks: http://ct-n.com/ctnplayer.asp?odID=10590
State Rep. Roberta Willis has always been a champion of pro-health, pro-environment causes. Here is her statement re fracking waste.
Why I Support SB 237: An Act Prohibiting 'Fracking' Waste in Connecticut
All the best,
Rivers Alliance of Connecticut