Fracking Waste As Road De-Icer?
There’s no shale deposits in Connecticut, which means there’s no hydraulic fracking for natural gas, but environmentalists believe the state legislature needs to take steps to prevent fracking waste from ending up here.
In New York, environmental groups say fracking waste is being used to de-ice the roads. In Connecticut, Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said last week that fracking waste had never been used to de-ice state roads and highways, but it’s unknown whether it’s been used by municipalities or private contractors.
It sounds almost too strange to be true, but environmentalists like Louis Burch of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, warn that the threat is very real.
Burch was at the Legislative Office Building last week educating lawmakers and the public about the dangers of fracking waste.
Production brine is the concentrated fluid that flows out of a gas well. That brine is five times more salty than seawater and could be used to de-ice roads. There are some counties in New York that have banned it while others have used it.
“Currently, there are no policies in place at the state level to protect Connecticut from spreading toxic production brine on roadways,” Burch said.
He said the companies doing the fracking in nearby states are looking to get rid of the waste and willing to do it at a very low cost. The road salt shortage in combination with tight state and municipal budgets could make this production brine an attractive alternative.
A few lawmakers were unable to comment on the issue because they had no idea the fracking brine could be used as a de-icer.
But the debate this year will be about more than production brine. Whether companies should be allowed to recycle or dispose of their fracking waste in the state will be part of the debate in the Environment and Energy and Technology Committees.
Last year, legislation that would have implemented a one-year moratorium on hydraulic fracking waste died on the House calendar. Proponents of the bill were told to wait for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to study the issue.
This month the agency recommended that “fracking waste” be regulated in the state just as hazardous waste, but the proposal submitted to the Office of Policy and Management is vague. It simply states any fracking waste be “appropriately regulated.”
What is clear is that fracking wastewater is not covered by the federal Resource Conservation Recovery Act, which tracks the movement of certain types of hazardous waste. Waste produced from the exploration and production of oil and gas are exempt from the act because there’s no requirement that companies disclose what types of chemicals they are using during the fracking process. That’s why environmentalists believe the legislature needs to take action.
There are no fewer than four bills this year in various committees seeking to stop the disposal of fracking waste in the state.
But there are some who believe legislation is unnecessary.
Steve Guveyan. executive director of the Connecticut Petroleum Council, has said there’s no need to regulate fracking waste since “already long-standing regulations in Connecticut bar their burial here.”
Connecticut law does allow for fracking wastewater to be recycled here and reused in Pennsylvania or New York, according to Guveyan. Although he believes it’s a long shot that companies would want to recycle their water in Connecticut so far from the drilling site.
According to the website FracTracker, Connecticut isn’t one of six states where this waste has been deposited.
Any attempts to keep the fracking recyclers out of the state could be viewed by some as a violation of the U.S. Commerce Clause. In 2012, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed legislation in his state that banned disposal of fracking waste.
But Burch said even trucking the material through the state could pose a danger to Connecticut residents. He said some fracking waste contains radioactive sludge.