There are no plans for hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in Connecticut since there are no shale deposits, but advocates want the state to close a loophole that could allow companies to truck billions of gallons of wastewater into Connecticut from the fracking operations in nearby states.
A new report from Environment Connecticut’s Research and Policy Center found that wastewater from fracking operations all over the country in 2012 would be enough to flood all of Hartford “in a toxic lagoon more than 77 feet.”
“Connecticut can not afford to wait to protect itself from becoming the next dumping ground for toxic fracking waste,” Madeline Page, federal field associate with Environment Connecticut, said Tuesday outside the Boathouse in Hartford.
“Right now there is no fracking waste coming into Connecticut,” Page said. But “New York could start fracking any day.”
She said the group is trying to be pro-active in preventing this type of waste from making it to Connecticut.
Rep. Matthew Lesser, D-Middletown, who sits on the Energy and Technology Committee, said that over the last few years Connecticut has increased its reliance upon natural gas.
This year expansion of natural gas lines in the state was the centerpiece of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s “Comprehensive Energy Strategy” legislation. The goal of the legislation was to expand 900 miles of natural gas lines to 280,000 customers over the next 10 years. The details of the plan are currently pending with the Public Utility Regulatory Authority.
Lesser said the states that allow fracking have come up with regulations to prevent the disposal of the wastewater used during the fracking process within their borders. He said that’s why Pennsylvania’s wastewater is going into New Jersey.
Regardless of how people feel about the expansion of natural gas, Lesser said the state needs to take steps to prevent the wastewater and solid waste from coming to the state.
“Existing regulations are not sufficient to prevent that water from coming to Connecticut, from contaminating the Connecticut River, and contaminating Long Island Sound, and from contaminating our water supply,” Lesser said.
He said this is a critical issue for the General Assembly to tackle in the 2014 legislative session.
“As the volume of this toxic waste grows, so too will the likelihood of illegal dumping,” the report states. It cited an August 2013 article from the Plain Dealer in Ohio where a man admitted to dumping thousands of gallons of fracking wastewater in the Mahoning River. It also cited a Sept. 2013 article from The Inquirer in Pennsylvania detail charges against a different company with improperly disposing of 50,000 gallons of fracking wastewater.
Advocates said this is an important issue because 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 and it’s unclear still where hydraulic fracking falls within any regulations.
Steve Guveyan. executive director of the Connecticut Petroleum Council, said there’s no need to regulate fracking waste since “already long-standing regulations in Connecticut bar their burial here.”
He said stated in an email Tuesday that Pennsylvania and Ohio allow for waste disposal with proper permitting, but “no new rules are needed here.” Where there is hydraulic fracturing it’s already “heavily regulated in those states as well as various federal laws,” Guveyan said.
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.
The legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee approvedlegislation this year that would implement a one-year moratorium on hydraulic fracking waste, while the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection “prepares a comprehensive assessment on fracking waste.”
The bill was never called and died on the House calendar.
Eric Brown, associate counsel for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, testified last March against the bill because it would “treat hydraulic fracturing wastes as a more serious health and environmental threat than spent nuclear fuel rods.”
Brown argued that if the opportunity to dispose of the waste created by the fracking process were to be strictly regulated, then it “would effectively foreclose the opportunity for our state and our nation to take advantage of vast domestic, clean and affordable energy.”
Even though the bill never passed, the DEEP will study the issue and prepare to make recommendations to the legislature when it reconvenes in February, Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the agency said Tuesday.