On May 9, the General Assembly Representatives voted to ban hydraulic fracturing waste from gas wells. The bill (HB 6329) passed by a vote of 141-6, and will now go to the Senate for consideration.
This is an encouraging sign that the movement to ban drilling waste town by town is having an effect. Activists have spent the last several years building a movement to go further than the state’s current moratorium. And here’s another sign that things are on the right track: An amendment that would have replaced the bill with a one year extension on the current moratorium was voted down by almost two-thirds of the house, by a vote of 96-50.
Connecticut is one of the smallest and most densely populated states in the country. We cannot risk bringing toxic, radioactive fracking waste here. With the overwhelming vote, the House acted to keep tanker trucks filled with hydraulic fracturing waste from gas wells off our highways, out of waste treatment facilities, and de-icing products used on roads.
If it passes, the bill will amend current state law that requires the Department of Energy and Environment Protection (DEEP) to submit regulations. This has never been an adequate option. Regulations to accept waste puts Connecticut on a path for serious contamination risks and costly remediation bills, if that can even be done. Radioactivity and chemical contamination has spread in other states due to spills, leaks and discharge to waterways following treatment efforts.
Throughout the debate, legislators repeatedly referred to fracking waste bans that have been passing with overwhelming support across the state. Seventeen towns now have local ordinances banning all oil & gas drilling and extraction wastes, with more to come. Constituents in 42 more towns are interested, actively organizing or have local leaders championing new laws. And all but one of the local ordinances are more protective than the current bill moving through the legislature.
Food & Water Watch has been working with numerous local advocates to help spearhead town ordinances, alongside Eastern CT Green Action, League of Women Voters NE CT and "No Frack Waste" citizen committees, with terrific support from Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Inter-Religious EcoJustice Network, CT Sierra, the Catholic sisters with the Collaborative Center for Justice, Rivers Alliance, Grassroots Environmental Education, and 350CT.org. Whatever happens with statewide legislation, it is clear that local efforts will continue.
HB 6329, it should be said, has some shortcomings. It removes some key protections that currently exist in state law. As currently written, the bill also removes wording from current law that requires the disclosure of all constituents of fracking waste, including multiple chemical combinations and radioactivity. And it doesn't exempt all drilling and extraction wastes, storage wastes, or any oil wastes.
But a permanent solution is the right move for legislators. It’s up to them to take action.
Jennifer Siskind is a Food & Water Watch Local Coordinator in Connecticut.