To the Editor:
I am writing as a concerned citizen and as a member of the board of directors of the Woodcock Nature Center.
Do you know that there are no current laws prohibiting the importing of fracking waste in our town? I’m sure your first thought is why would we need such laws–we are not exactly living in an oil field. But the regulations being passed by CT towns reach far beyond what you and I think of as traditional fracking waste. For example, effective legislation would prevent the town from buying less expensive deicers and road salts that contain toxic fracking materials that could seep into homeowner wells, wetlands or our watershed. Yuck, right? This is already happening in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Connecticut may not seem a likely place for fracking waste to go, given that there is no natural gas extraction in the state, yet the reality is quite different. Fracking in Pennsylvania ships over 200,000 tons of solid fracking waste and more than 1.7 million barrels of liquid fracking waste out of state yearly. The states on the receiving end include Idaho, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia. Proximity to the original extraction site does not matter and the industry is always looking for repository sites, especially since 2016, when Pennsylvania passed a ban on fracking waste disposal at public sewage treatment plants.
The good news is that there is currently a CT-wide moratorium on some types of fracking waste, but there are many others. Local ordinances, however, ban them all. Wilton does not have an ordinance to address any of these matters, so we are left with this narrow, outdated regulation. DEEP has a deadline of July 2018 to propose new regs, but they have already said they will miss this deadline. Another problem is a new law in CT states that DEEP has 90 days to review a permit (say for importing waste) and if they don’t get to it, it is automatically granted without review. The drastic cuts to DEEP funding and staffing make this scenario easy to imagine, once the regulations for importing are done. Also, it is a challenge for DEEP to write regulations and review permits because the oil and gas industry is exempt from having to tell what chemicals they add to the water in fracking.
Efforts are being made in Wilton, but our first selectwoman, Lynne Vanderslice, is not on board. Without her support, our town charter makes it very tough to force a vote. We are therefore trying to build public pressure to sway Ms. Vanderslice. Supporters will be at the Zero Waste Faire on Sunday, March 25 with post cards for people to send to her.
Unlike Wilton, there is already a groundswell of support in surrounding towns and the Ridgefield Board of Selectman is holding a Special Town Meeting regarding a Fracking Ordinance on March 21. This ordinance was put forward by RACE (Ridgefield Action Committee for the Environment) and NRWA (Norwalk River Watershed Association). The ordinance is written to provide a ban on the storage, treatment, and special use of oil and natural gas hydraulic fracturing waste (also known as fracking waste) in both its solid and liquid forms, the material of which is highly caustic and radioactive. Redding passed similar measures last month.
If Wilton can pass a similar ban, it would add us to the ever growing list of places taking a proactive approach to this potential danger. Westchester, Putnam, Nassau, and Suffolk counties, New York, have had fracking waste bans for many years now. In 2016, New York City banned fracking waste. Vermont has a statewide ban. Here in Connecticut there are 42 communities that have already taken action and passed a ban. Is it worth the risk to do nothing? Take no action? There is no downside to protecting our community from potential future remediation costs.
Let’s take action and ban fracking waste! The risk is too great, we need to proactively protect our tax dollars, environment, and health.
Lindsay A. Sheehy
Lynne Vanderslice’s response: “This was discussed very briefly at a Board of Selectmen meeting. Since there is legislation being considered on the State level and since we have had very full agendas with several meetings lasting well past 10:30 p.m., this wasn’t considered an immediate priority. As a Board we are focused on leaving Wilton a better place environmentally than when we took office. The recently installed solar panels at Miller Driscoll and Middlebrook and the upcoming installations at Wilton High School and Cider Mill are just one example of such.”
Norwalk River Watershed Association’s response to First Selectman Vanderslice: The problem with waiting for the State to ban this waste is that it has failed to vote on a ban three times in the last six years. The State’s failure to act has resulted in the passage of local ordinances in 41 cities and towns so far. There is some very good news at the state level this legislative session, however. The language in the current state bill to ban fracking waste, SB 103, has been strengthened to reflect the comprehensive language of the local bans. The local bans are having a powerful effect, and may help push the legislature to bring SB 103 to a vote this year. The Norwalk River Watershed Association (NRWA) supports the Ridgefield ordinance and protections in all of the Watershed towns, including Wilton, but one correction to the letter from Lindsay Sheehy is that NRWA and RACE did put forth the Ridgefield ordinance. The town council chose to adopt the basic language of the ordinance used by the other CT towns to create Ridgefield’s ordinance, which is available on the Board of Selectman website. So far in our watershed, Redding has adopted a ban, Ridgefield has a vote scheduled, Norwalk and Weston are well into the process. We hope that New Canaan and Wilton will also consider adopting a local ordinance. Let’s keep working at the local level to protect our waterways from this toxic, radioactive waste.
Louise Washer, President
Norwalk River Watershed Association
Sorry one typo in my letter corrected here:
one correction to the letter from Lindsay Sheehy is that NRWA and RACE did NOT put forth the Ridgefield ordinance.
One more correction: NRWA supports, but did not put forth, the ordinance in Ridgefield, but RACE-Ridgefield Action Committee for the Environment–did put forth the ordinance for the town to consider.
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