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Hydrofracking Dumping Needs to be Considered in Bargaining Chip

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Hydrofracking Waste Disposal Adds More to the Controversy

Safety Issues With Hydrofracking in New York

A Demonstration Against Hydrofracking in New York State. Photo Courtesy of DC Bureau.The moratorium for passing hydrofracking in New York State is in effect until a comprehensive public health and environmental impact assessment be completed by spring 2015; and in the meantime legislation needs to consider wastewater as part of the bargaining chip when deciding the issuance of natural gas drilling permits. There is much confusion among supporters and protestors on the touchy subject of hydrofracking that needs to be filtered out for the public to make informed decisions.

In May, State Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk introduced a bill to ban dumping and pollutants for treatment of hydrofracking waste products in the state. Fracking opponents claim they’ve seen sightings of traffic coming over Pennsylvania’s border, where hydrofracking has been used in the gas-bearing Marcellus Shale region according to Casey Seiler’s article “Bill: Ban fracking pollutants for treatment or dumping in state,” published in the Times Union.

“It simply makes no sense that we would accept hazardous wastes from other states while we are working to determine the environmental impact fracking would have on New York,” Tkaczyk said at a news conference.

The assumption that the lawful transportation and disposal of waste water is a free-for-all activity or somehow a secret said James Smith, a spokesman for the Independent Oil and Gas Association in an email according to the Times Union article is absurd. Case in point is the sewage-treatment plant in Niagara Falls that flows into the Niagara River. Last fall, the city council considered whether to truck in and treat wastewater left over from the natural gas drilling technique. In a unanimous vote, the Niagara Falls City Council banned the treatment, transport, storage and disposal of drilling fluids within city limit.

“We’re not going to deal with this again — a chemical disaster,” said the council chairman, Samuel Fruscione, referring to the Love Canal disaster in the New York Times article “Wastewater Becomes Issue in Debate on Gas Drilling,” written by Mireya Navarro.

Wastewater has emerged as an issue from environmental regulators fine-tuning proposed rules governing hydraulic fracturing or fracking, the controversial natural-gas extraction process; celebrities like Yoko Ono and her son Sean Lennon are standing up with their anti-hydrofracking campaign against Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The Federal government has told New York officials that they should not rely on the disposal methods that it now uses for salty wastewater from conventional gas wells that produce less waste than fracking. Most of the state’s drilling waste remains in New York according to the New York Times article, sent to sewage-treatment plants like the one in Auburn. State regulators claim that the waste is also used to de-ice roads or tamp down dust on the pavement.

Another option state officials should consider is building new treatment plants for the fracking industry; but industry representatives state that doing so would depend on if the investment makes economic sense.

“Following the waste stream from a well to ultimate disposal is nearly impossible,” representatives from Environmental Advocates of New York said in the New York Times article.

The small group based in Albany released a report, outlining how the state does not effectively monitor where the waste from nearly 7,000 conventional wells now in operation goes. The group reviewed close to 100 drilling permits and found the state government requested minimal information on waste disposal.

Stuart Gruskin, a former deputy commissioner of the Environmental Conservation Department, had worked on the first draft of the rules. In theory, he said, fracking waste could be disposed of safely; but finding adequate treatment capacity will be the challenge.

“This is going to be a limiting factor in New York,” Gruskin said.

Diana Denner is a Contributor to The Free George. Photo Courtesy of DC Bureau.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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