Environmentalists cheer closing of what they said was a loophole for drilling detritus
By Rick Karlin | August 3, 2020 | Reprinted from timesunion.com
ALBANY – In what environmentalists are hailing as the closing of a loophole and a blow to the hydrofracking industry in neighboring Pennsylvania, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday signed a bill banning the importation of hazardous fracking waste into New York.
The loophole, they say, had long existed because of the prior definition of hazardous waste that excluded substances like drilling fluids and other material used in exploration and extraction of oil or natural gas.
Some of those materials, including rock that environmentalists say contains low-levels of radiation, has been taken to a handful of western New York landfills over the years. Additionally, at least one western New York school used fracking fluid, as a brine, or salty water to help melt ice on its walkways and parking lots. The worry there is that the fluid would run off into the water supply.
“New York has led the nation in banning fracking, and we are grateful to Governor Andrew Cuomo for ensuring that fracking waste will no longer contaminate New York’s land and water,” Maureen Cunningham, senior director for clean water at Environmental Advocates NY said of the signing.
“Having banned fracking in New York, Cuomo has taken another important step towards making New York frack-free,” added Eric Weltman, of Food and Water Watch.
New York doesn’t allow hydrofracking for oil or gas – the process in which fossil fuel companies drill deep into the earth, even horizontally, and use pressurized liquids to fracture or “frack” rock shale formations to release the fuels locked inside.
While it has led to an energy boom in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas, hydrofracking is controversial due to worries about water pollution. Those concerned about climate change also view it as enabling ongoing use of carbon-laden fossil fuels instead of moving toward renewable energy.
The environmental group Earthworks in 2019 produced a report showing how waste generated during the fracking exploration process had been placed in landfills in Chemung, Steuben and Allegany counties which are near the Pennsylvania border. The legislation was sponsored by Syracuse Sen. Rachel May and Long Island Assemblyman Steve Englebright, both Democrats.