New York has a de facto moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, but some of the state's landfills and water treatment plants have been taking in out-of-state fracking wastes. Some local governments — none in Monroe County — have even used brine from fracked wells to de-ice roads.
During a press conference this afternoon, Democratic State Senator Ted O'Brien pushed for a package of legislation that he says would halt the influx of fracking wastes.
"New York should not be a dumping ground for other states' toxic wastes," he said.
O'Brien was joined at the press conference by Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters; the league endorsed O'Brien during his first election bid in 2012 and also endorses his re-election this year.
The legislation includes:
- A bill to ban New York's landfills from accepting Pennsylvania shale-well drill cuttings. O'Brien said that the radioactive elements present in the wastes — including radium — are of concern.
- A bill that would prohibit New York water treatment facilities from accepting fracking waste water, unless the facility meets requirements set by the Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner. The bill would also require the DEC commissioner to set standards for treating fracking waste water.
- A bill sponsored by Democratic Senator Tony Avella and co-sponsored by O'Brien that would allow hazardous waste from fracking operations to be treated as hazardous waste. That sounds odd, but federal laws do not classify oil and gas drilling wastes as hazardous materials, so they don't have to be disposed of as such. This law would also end the use of brine from fracked wells as road de-icer, O'Brien said.
- A bill sponsored by Democratic Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk and co-sponsored by O'Brien that would prohibit the transportation of fracking waste into New York for the purpose of treatment, disposal, or storage.
O'Brien, who is the ranking minority member onthe Senate's Environmental Conservation Committee, hasn't come out for or against fracking. He's said that he wants to see what the state's environmental review says — that review has stretched on for six years. If the review concludes that fracking can be done safely, he says that he wants to see it properly regulated. He backed a statewide legislative moratorium on fracking, though the bill failed in the Senate.
O'Brien's opponent, Republican Rich Funke, has said that he supports developing natural resources, including New York's natural gas deposits, in an environmentally friendly way. He's also said that communities should be able to decide whether they want to allow fracking.