Fracking

If natural gas is the future for Connecticut, we'll have to deal with the dangers of fracking, including toxic waste. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia / November 25, 2013)

Guveyan argued that bills banning fracking waste from coming into Connecticut and other states "are a back-door attempt to ban the hydraulic fracturing process itself."

Eric Brown, spokesman for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, was also opposed to any fracking waste ban. He worried that such a prohibition would eliminate any legitimate business opportunities involving the safe recycling or storage of the stuff.

He claimed it would treat fracking waste "as a more serious and environmental threat than spent nuclear fuel rods." (Connecticut has plenty of those, by the way.)

Activists like Burch say the way the energy industry is thinking about "recycling" fracking waste includes selling it cheap to cities and towns, or even giving it away, as a "road-spreading agent" that could be used to dilute anti-icing salts.

Steinberg says one of the big problems is that federal law doesn't force energy companies to reveal exactly what type of pollutants are in the fracking waste water. Since the feds don't consider it hazardous, the frackers don't even have to report where it's going for disposal.

The waste water that would come out of Marcellus Shale fracking wells would be "highly radioactive," Steinberg says, pointing to studies indicating the stuff could contain radon at levels "20 to 80 times greater than is considered safe for humans."

State Rep. Lonnie Reed, co-chair of the legislature's Energy and Technology Committee, says she's already got a bill ready to launch in 2014 that would close that federal loophole on fracking waste and force energy companies to reveal exactly what was in any crap they wanted to bring into this state. Reed says her bill would also force any Connecticut companies wanting to get in on the fracking waste recycling deal to demonstrate exactly how they'd dispose of the nasty stuff.

Steinberg acknowledges that it might be kind of awkward for this state, which is now counting so heavily on cheap natural gas produced by fracking, to ban fracking waste water. "How could we be so hypocritical?" he asks.

He thinks that's one reason Malloy's administration doesn't want to support such a clear-cut solution. Steinberg says he's "fairly confident" Malloy wants to do something, but nothing that would make him appear anti-business or anti-natural gas.

Malloy's opposition killed two anti-fracking waste bills in 2013. Steinberg and environmental activists say they plan to make another hard push to get some serious action on this issue in 2014, perhaps by placing a whole series of new types of controls over disposal of the stuff here.

The problem is, Steinberg says, that we simply don't know enough about the chemicals and radioactivity that might be coming with the fracking waste to gamble that it can be disposed of or recycled here properly.

"Why would we take such risks on behalf of the people of Connecticut?" he asks. "We could be opening the door to something that makes Pandora's Box look tame."

 

ghladky@hartfordadvocate.com

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