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Three-year Moratorium on Fracking Waste Headed To House

by Hugh McQuaid | May 5, 2014 8:28pm
(4) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Energy, Environment

Hugh McQuaid photo

Sen. Ed Meyer

The Senate approved a three-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing wastewater Monday as part of a bipartisan bill that environmental advocates described as “watered down.”

If approved by the House and the governor, the legislation will temporarily ban waste associated with the “fracking” process used to extract natural gas. The state does not have natural gas deposits of its own, but advocates have raised concerns that companies will truck the wastewater into Connecticut from operations in nearby states.

Environment Committee Co-Chairman Sen. Ed Meyer said his panel voted to act on the issue “after receiving a lot of scientific evidence that fracking waste is extremely toxic, full of radioactivity, bromides, toxic metals” and has prompted lawsuits “in Pennsylvania because of contamination of water from fracking waste.”

Connecticut is too far from fracking operations to make it a realistic location for waste. But Meyer said that could change as nearby New York is considering lifting its current ban on fracking.

The bill, which was moved to the consent calendar after hours of debate, gives the state Energy and Environmental Protection Department three years to decide how to regulate the waste. It permits the agency to allow a limited amount of wastewater into Connecticut in order to study it.

It reflects one of two proposals raised this session to deal with possibility of fracking waste being shipped into Connecticut. Environmental advocates had backed a bill, Senate Bill 237, which proposed an outright prohibition of the substance. On Monday, lawmakers took that bill, gutted it, and replaced it with the temporary moratorium.

Chris Phelps, campaign director with Environment Connecticut, said they “watered down” important elements of the original bill. He said the new language will serve as a stopgap to largely keep the materials out of the state in the short term, but should be replaced with a permanent solution.

“We need to come back. In the coming year we’ll be advocating to tighten up the law to ensure that it keeps fracking waste out of the state because this stuff is so toxic, it should be kept out of Connecticut,” Phelps said. “It’s a starting point, but the bill does not get us where we need to be, which is an outright ban on toxic and radioactive fracking waste.”

During the floor debate, Meyer said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration favored a moratorium rather than a ban. The bill’s moratorium will hold until July 2017, at which time DEEP will be permitted to submit their regulations. The recommendations will need to be reviewed by the legislature’s Regulation Review Committee.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle supported the approach. Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, said the state did not proactively shield residents from byproducts of nuclear energy. He said it was appropriate to be careful with a new energy process.

“Why wouldn’t we take the measures ahead of time, be pre-emptive, saying we don’t know enough about the byproduct waste in hydraulic fracturing to say ‘Well, we don’t care, you can store it over here,’” he said. “I think it doesn’t close the door. I think it says ‘take your time, study the issue, find out if there are harmful side effects.’”

Others argued that the waste was unlikely to be an issue in Connecticut. Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, opposed the bill, saying the state was located too far from potential fracking sites.

“I really would like to be realistic in the discussion about this topic of how likely it is to come here and based upon sheer mileage, I don’t see that happening” he said.

Meyer declined to weigh in on the likelihood of fracking waste being shipped to Connecticut.

“This bill is being offered . . . in order to avoid what many people feel is a danger to our security and our safety and our health. You could say, Sen. McLachlan, ‘Better safe than sorry,’” he said.

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(4) Comments

posted by: Chien DeBerger | May 6, 2014  11:20am

What a joke and shame on my senator Witkos for this giant waste of time in Hartford! We don’t have more important issues?

posted by: KevinW | May 6, 2014  2:11pm

It is interesting that we have made the low-cost natural gas made possible by hydro-fracking the centerpiece of our energy policy. Our Governor wants to construct a new natural gas pipeline into New England so that electrical generators and more home and business can take advantage of the cleaner and lower cost fuel.
But we want nothing to do with the by-products of producing that gas. Keep all that waste water out of the state. We only want your clean gas. Don’t we have some responsibility to do what we can to support this technology that is providing such a benefit to the state?

posted by: dano860 | May 6, 2014  7:00pm

They don’t even know what they are talking about. The material generated is the same material that comes from drilling a water well in your backyard. In Ct we have an abundance of radon, the naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) and it is removed from the hole whenever a well is drilled. The water used in a water well drilling is allowed to run off and seep into the ground. The cuttings (stone chips) are left at the site, usually right at the base of the casing.
The actual fracking to produce the oil is done after the hole has been drilled and there is little to no waste then, they capture and contain those fluids since they contain the product.
KevenW, few people that claim gas to be a savior energy source realize it comes off the top of oil pools , they think it magically appears out of thin air.
There is little fear of this stuff coming to Ct and if it did maybe a few jobs would be created purifying and decontaminating the stuff.
If Senator Myers needs his name on a star he should buy one from the International Star Registry, Oh, they are out of business too.

posted by: Jen S | May 8, 2014  9:19pm

Drilling a water well is absolutely not the same as drilling for unconventional shale gas using high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”. The shale is 1-2 miles deep, then the drill is turned sideways and drilled another mile or so horizontally.  This vast distance that both flowback waste and produced water has to travel allows it to pick up a greater level of contamination.  The Marcellus Shale in NY and PA is known to be the most radioactive shale in the country, due to quantity of uranium and radium 226 & radium 228 deposits. These radioactive materials are water soluble, so the 5 million gallons of chemically laced solution that is then injected into each well then picks up this radioactivity.  The waste that returns to the surface contains the original chemicals and all the toxins drawn out of the earth that it picks up on the way. There is no way to purify or decomtaminate all these toxins.  The water is never potable again, and any partially separated radioactive or chemical toxins still need to be disposed of. For those who wish to educate themselves about the hazards of fracking waste, further reading:
Warner, Christie, Jackson & Vengosh, (2013) Impacts of Shale Gas Wastewater Disposal on Water Quality in Western Pennsylvania http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es402165b
A follow-up article pertaining to this study:
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-10-02/radiation-in-pennsylvania-creek-seen-as-legacy-of-fracking-waste#p2

Quotes from Drs. Jackson & Venghosh culled from several articles:
“There’s the danger of bioaccumulation of the radium. It will eventually end up in fish and that is a biological danger.”  “Years of disposal of…wastewater with high radioactivity has created potential environmental risks for thousands of years to come.” “Once you have a release of fracking fluid into the environment, you end up with a radioactive legacy.”  When asked if local citizens should be concerned, Dr. Jackson replied, “If I lived there, I would be concerned about wastewater and wastewater products. The public should be concerned…anything they can do to reduce the amount of public wastewater exposure, they should be doing.”

USGS measurements of radium 226 content in shale drilling wastewaters:
Rowan, et al., Radium Content of Oil- and Gas-field Produced Waters in the Northern Appalachian Basin: Summary and Discussion of Data, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5135, 2011 http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2011/5135/)

Compiled list of known chemicals (proprietary chemicals excluded) used in hydraulic fracturing & their health effects:
Colburn, et al (2011) Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective
http://cce.cornell.edu/EnergyClimateChange/NaturalGasDev/Documents/PDFs/fracking chemicals from a public health perspective.pdf