For the past five years, the current fracking ban has safeguarded New York State residents from water and air pollution problems that plague residents near Pennsylvania fracking operations.
But, the ban in New York is enforced by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), that made the decision based on the negative health impacts of fracking found in studies by the Department of Health (DOH). And this type of a ban is dependent on the leadership at the DEC. That is why I was interested in a proposal in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2021 Executive Budget, when he proposed legislation to make New York’s fracking ban permanent.
With its proven track record, the ban should easily pass from administrative fiat to law in 2020. But the ban still only deals with the hole drilled in the ground. The waste products from fracking are still not regulated by the state. Fracking wastes are contaminated by radioactive radon, as well as unregulated chemicals that are used in the hydraulic fracturing process.
These wastes are being imported into New York at this time. The solid drilling wastes are being sent to landfills like the Hakes Landfill near Corning. This landfill was recently in the news as the DEC approved a contested expansion of the landfill without considering the impacts of the radioactivity that it is adding by accepting fracking waste. In addition, the fracking industry markets the waste brine that lubricates their wells as a liquid de-icer for roads.
It is shortsighted to ban the process of fracking but allow the major cause of the health issues sited by the DOH (the fracking wastes) to be transported into the state, then dumped in ways that could foul the environment and ruin the water. May the governor and the legislature correct this oversight and pass a ban on fracking wastes as well.