Municipal Lobby And Environmentalists Trade Barbs on ‘Model’ Fracking Ordinance
NEW HAVEN, CT—In an attempt to assist towns looking to ban hydraulic fracturing waste, better known as fracking, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities has developed its own ordinance for towns looking to draft local legislation that meets guidelines.
The ordinance, according to CCM, serves to assist CCM-member communities faced with growing pressures by the Food and Water Watch Association (FWWA) and others to enact an overly expansive ordinance seeking to ban hydraulic fracturing waste.
The consequence of the ordinance language that FWWA has been touting, CCM said, has paralyzed many of them from performing any infrastructure improvements or road projects, effectively chilling the economic development environment for many communities.
The CCM ordinance was immediately criticized by the Food and Water Watch Association.
Jen Siskind, coordinator for FWWA, said the CCM ordinance was an attempt to undercut a wave of grassroots organizing in dozens of communities across the state.
She called CCM’s actions “bizarre.”
But CCM, a lobbying organizations for the state’s 169 towns, said its members have been asking for help dealing with the issue.
“CCM-member leaders have been concerned about this critical issue for some time and worked closely with CCM staff, construction leaders and Murtha Cullina (law firm) to fashion an acceptable ordinance which will protect towns without any adverse economic development impact locally in any part of the state,” CCM Executive Director Joe DeLong said.
The ordinance prohibits the use, sale and transport of hydraulic fracturing waste without adversely affecting economic development efforts.
It also makes several references to state statute that seek to protect municipalities from liabilities related to the enforcement of such an ordinance, leaving the ultimate responsibility for enforcement to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. (DEEP).
Specific prohibitions include: no person may collect, receive, store, treat, transfer or dispose of any waste from hydraulic fracturing within the town; and, no person may sell, offer to sell, offer, barter, manufacture, distribute or use any product for anti-icing, de-icing, pre-wetting or dust suppression that is derived from or contains waste from hydraulic fracturing unless such product is approved for use by the Connecticut DEEP.
On their own, the following 48 municipalities have already established fracking ordinances in some form or another:
Stamford, Norwalk, Bridgeport, New London, Stratford, Milford, New Haven, Woodbridge, Hamden, North Haven, Branford, Guilford, Madison, Griswold, Lebanon, Columbia, Hebron, Andover, Bolton, Coventry, Mansfield, Chaplin, Hampton, Pomfret, Eastford, Ashford, Willington, Woodstock, Thompson, Meriden, Rocky Hill, Glastonbury, Wethersfield, Hartford, Windsor, Bloomfield, South Windsor, Bristol, Naugatuck, Litchfield, Southbury, Redding, New Milford, Clinton, Washington, East Hampton, Portland, and Middletown.
But CCM’s model ordinance, Food and Watch’s Siskind said, relies on a narrow definition of fracking waste, does not apply to oil and gas waste derived from conventional wells, and fails to ban potentially dangerous substances including leachate from solid waste and brine from underground wells.
Siskind said CCM’s model ordinance also crafts exceptions that would allow drilling waste to be used in construction and roads, which poses serious risks of toxic and radioactive contamination.
Efforts to use fracking waste brine for dust suppression or as a de-icing agent, for instance, have resulted in lead and radioactive radium contamination, causing state regulators in Pennsylvania to rescind the relevant permits, Siskind said.
CCM, in a subsequent statement, responded to Siskind’s criticism.
“FWWA is correct; our ordinance does not apply to oil and gas waste derived from conventional wells,” CCM said. “This was done purposely so that we are addressing the risks associated with the harmful chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process, not the established and highly regulated uses of oil and gas that are currently permitted such as road building, paving and fuel.”
And then CCM went further.
“FWWA has misrepresented to the people that have been advocating for enactment of their ordinance as to the real life ramifications their ordinance will have on the residents and businesses of Connecticut,” the CCM statement said.
“By CCM offering a reasonable alternative to FWWA’s ordinance, we have exposed their true intentions: Keep all oil and gas in the ground, not just the waste derived from hydraulic fracturing,” CCM said. “Their ordinance, one could argue, would make every gas station in every town non-compliant, would hinder the expansion of natural gas in Connecticut and would substantially increase the costs of heating homes, road building projects and paving driveways.”
FWWA shot back.
“We have built a grassroots movement of concerned residents who wish to protect their families and neighbors from the hazards of shipping, storing and treating fracking waste,” Siskind said.
“It has been an empowering process, one that shows how citizen involvement in a democracy can produce tangible benefits,” Siskind said. “The CCM’s attempt to undercut this is more than just bizarre; if towns adopt this ordinance, they could leave themselves exposed to public health problems and costly remediation. The answer is to pass a strong waste ban ordinance, as nearly 50 towns and cities have already done.”
CCM has been pushing for the state to take the lead on developing one, consistent fracking law for all towns to follow.
In testimony before the Environment Committee earlier this year, CCM said: “Regulation of such materials should be handled on a statewide basis; municipalities do not have the resources and/or expertise to appropriately and effectively regulate, evaluate and enforce the use of fracturing waste in the state.”
“CCM understands that there may be risks associated with the storage of hydraulic fracking waste, which may affect water and other natural resources and ecological habitats, have statewide implications,” its testimony continued.
“However, towns and cities do not have the expertise or resources to evaluate the science associated with this matter; that responsibility resides with DEEP. Additionally, it most certainly makes no sense, from a practical perspective, for 169 Town/Cities in a state of 5,500 square miles to legislate or regulate this issue individually. This current piecemeal approach only creates a confusing crazy quilt regulatory structure that will defy implementation,” CCM told the Environment Committee.