A number of Connecticut Environmental groups and legislators have begun to craft fracking waste legislation that may come before the legislature in the next couple weeks.
Although Connecticut may never be the site of hydraulic fracturing — an environmentally controversial method of obtaining natural gas from shale deposits more popularly known as fracking — because of its geological makeup, the production of natural gas through fracking still poses a problem for the state. Legislators are concerned Connecticut will become home to the fracking waste treatment and storage from other states.
“Anything you do related to the production of energy has an environmental impact, so the key is to make certain that you’re minimizing that impact and that there are sound regulations to do that,” said Denis Schain, director of communications at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
According to Schain, a loophole in Connecticut’s current law could allow waste associated with fracking to come into Connecticut for disposal. The state law is based off a federal law, which does not classify materials associated with oil and gas extraction as hazardous waste.
The new legislation is attempting to regulate these materials by requiring, for example, more record keeping and documentation of how the materials are handled from “cradle to grave,” Schain said. “The reason it is such an issue is because the waste from fracking is filled with chemicals and radioactivity,” said Nancy Alderman ’94 FES ’97, the president of Environment and Human Health Inc. According to Alderman, companies who drill in nearby states such as Pennsylvania have not yet found a sustainable method of waste disposal and are currently resorting to techniques such as sending the polluted water to other states for reinjection into the ground.
While the DEEP has proposed legislation to regulate fracking waste, other Connecticut legislators, like state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg of Westport and Rep. Matthew Lesser of Middletown, have also been working on bills of their own to propose to the legislature.
“We’re going to be watching those bills closely, discussing the issues they raise to determine our views on other bills that are submitted,” Schain said.
A bill may come up for vote within the next week, according to Alderman. There has also been an effort on the part of numerous Connecticut environmental groups to rally against fracking waste. A newly created website, which was put up by a coalition of environmental groups, provides a repository of information on fracking in Connecticut as well as a list of Connecticut environmental organizations who have taken a stance against it.
However, some environmental groups feel as though a ban on fracking waste does not go far enough to control the potentially detrimental effects of fracking on the environment.
“It’s great to ban fracking waste in Connecticut, but it’s kind of hypocritical to then expand our natural gas infrastructure,” said Ben Martin, a member of the coordinating committee at 350 Connecticut, a state branch of national environmental organization 350.org. “Instead, we should be transitioning to renewable energy and not trying to expand natural gas,” Martin said.
According to Martin, both the Gov. Dannel Malloy and the DEEP have been working to expand Connecticut’s use of natural gas over the past few years.
As the state relies more heavily on natural gas, the challenge will be to determine how it can be sourced and used responsibly and in a responsible and environmentally sound manner, Schain said.
There are currently over 6000 active natural gas wells in the state of Pennsylvania.