Supporters erupted into a round of applause earlier this week as the Westchester Board of Legislators unanimously approved a bill that bans the sale, application and disposal of chemicals from natural gas drilling in Westchester County.
The bill was approved unanimously during Monday's BOL meeting and will now go to County Executive Robert Astorino's desk for approval.
“This legislation will protect our environment for Westchester residents both today and in the future,” said Catherine Borgia (D), who co-sponsored the legislation. “The toxins involved in hydrofracking waste, including radioactive materials, are among the most harmful known to humankind."
Lawmakers stressed the health concerns many associate with hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, as the reason for the ban. Hydrofracking is a drilling method that uses water infused with chemicals and high pressure to yield natural gas.
Waste from hydrofracking operations is used in other products, including chemicals used to de-ice roadways during storms. Any product used on a county road would require a provision stating that it contains no fracking waste.
The Westchester ban would specifically ban introducing fracking waste into wastewater or sewage treatment facilities.
“As hydrofracking increases around the Northeast, gas companies will look for different ways in which to dispose of all the toxic waste that results from the extracting process,” Legislator Paul Ryan (D) said in a statement. “The legislation passed by the Board today warns natural gas extractors that Westchester will not be a dumping site for this hazardous waste.”
Among those celebrating the vote was Ellen Weininger, educational outreach coordinator for Grassroots Environmental Education.
“We appreciate the close attention the Westchester legislators paid to this new law, and the expediting of its passage," Weininger said in a media release. "The legislators have demonstrated a deep and unwavering commitment to protecting the public health of Westchester residents and safeguarding the environment for future generations.”
If signed into law, a violation would be a misdemeanor charge that could lead to jail time and up to a $25,000 fine.