Advocates seeking to ban the storage in Connecticut of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing delivered petitions with thousands of signatures to policymakers Wednesday as the legislature considers two bills on the subject.
The petitions, which advocates say contained more than 5,600 signatures, urged Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and lawmakers to support a bill that would prohibit the storage and disposal in Connecticut of wastes associated with the hydraulic fracturing process used to extract natural gas.
The state does not have the natural gas resource deposits to engage in the process, known as “fracking,” but advocates are concerned that companies will truck the wastewater into Connecticut from operations in nearby states.
The petitions were organized by several environmental groups including the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. Laura McMillan, the group’s communications director, said the state needs to act now to prevent fracking waste from entering Connecticut in the near future.
McMillan said advocates are not sure exactly what is contained in the waste because the chemicals used in the fracturing process are considered trade secrets by energy companies.
“The only sure way to protect our waters from toxic fracking waste is a complete ban,” she said.
On Monday, the Judiciary Committee passed the ban in a 34-6 vote with support from all the panel’s Democrats and many Republicans. Sen. Ed Meyer, co-chairman of the Environment Committee, said lawmakers want to see more access to natural gas in Connecticut.
“Some people argue you better be prepared to deal with the downside” of that process “but our committee found that difficult because of the toxicity and the danger to our constituents,” Meyer said.
Sen. John Kissel, Judiciary Committee’s ranking Republican, supported the bill. Kissel called the impact of fracking waste in other areas of the country “deplorable.”
However, others on the committee said they preferred another bill that was proposed by Malloy’s Energy and Environmental Protection Department. That legislation would ban the waste in Connecticut until DEEP has adopted regulations for it.
Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, said he opposed the ban because it sent a mixed message with efforts to expand access to natural gas.
“Here’s the reality — there’s no fracking waste coming into Connecticut anytime soon. Everybody in this building has been rooting for natural gas. I’m uncomfortable with the mixed message. I don’t like voting without homework and the homework isn’t done yet,” he said.
Proponents of the more permanent ban fear the environmental protection agency does not have enough resources to adequately regulate toxic or radioactive chemicals entering the state from fracking operations.
Andrew Doba, Malloy’s spokesman, said the administration was interested in the legislation but did not indicate which proposal they preferred.
“We are actively monitoring the proposals, and will continue to do so as they go through the legislative process,” he said.