Anti-Fracking Waste Bill Clears Judiciary Committee

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Lawmakers worried about toxic byproducts from natural gas drilling wells in other states convinced the legislature’s Judiciary Committee Monday to approve a ban on “fracking” waste coming into Connecticut for storage or treatment.

Fracking diagram courtesy of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Fracking diagram courtesy of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The bill has yet to go through the state House or Senate, and faces competition from other legislation backed by Gov. Dannel Malloy for more state regulation of fracking waste. A third bill would put a two-year moratorium on allowing natural gas drilling byproducts to enter this state.

While it was clear the anti-fracking waste easily passed the committee, a final vote total won’t be available until later this afternoon.

Malloy has been promoting natural gas as a cheaper, cleaner alternative fuel for Connecticut than oil or gas.

Some opponents of the fracking ban charge that it’s hypocritical for this state to benefit from the increase in natural gas production because of fracking while prohibiting its treatment or storage here.

But lawmakers from both parties warned Wednesday that the waste products from fracking or “hydraulic fracturing” are now unregulated by the federal government and can be highly dangerous.

State Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, said fracking waste can be “highly radioactive and full of toxic metals.” State Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said what he’s seen happen around the U.S. as a result of natural gas fracking “has been deplorable.”

“There are communities that have just been laid waste,” Kissel said in support of the ban.

Fracking is a process by which millions of gallons of water and chemicals are pumped at high pressure deep into natural gas and oil shale deposits deep within the earth. Connecticut doesn’t have any of the right type of shale for natural gas or oil, but there are massive deposits beneath Pennsylvania and New York. State officials say they don’t believe any of the three privately owned Connecticut companies capable of processing fracking waste are now receiving any of those toxic materials for storage or disposal.

Some studies have indicated those wells have caused pollution problems and earthquakes for nearby communities. Fracking critics say disposal or treatment of the waste is a major environmental problem.

State Sen. Michael McLaughlan, R-Danbury, has his doubts and argued that a ban now would “jumping the gun.” McLaughlan said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now in the middle of a detailed study of fracking and its waste products.

Other Republicans on the committee said they would prefer to support a moratorium or Malloy’s proposal to give state environmental regulators far more control over what can come into Connecticut from fracking wells.

State Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck, said she doesn’t like the idea of a total ban because it would prevent Connecticut researchers and high-tech companies from doing research on the best way to clean up and process fracking waste. “We’re kind of putting the cart before the horse,” she said.

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