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County Lawmakers Pass Fracking Waste Ban

A law banning the sale, application and disposal of waste from Hydrofracking received unanimous support from county legislators this week.

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.

Bob Zahm December 13, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Now that's a real accomplishment. Something the board of legislators can be proud of. This is one law that, if enforced, will surely change the tide on global warming, worsen the economics of fracking so that it doesn't happen in NY, keep our local water supply spic and span, and convince many that the BOL actually can take action. ... Almost as good as Rye's bans on plastic bags and leaf blowers.
Mark Miller December 13, 2012 at 10:28 AM
Not to worry. It kept our august lawmakers occupied so they couldn't do real damage on something else. Of course, we sit on granite, so the odds of anyone wanting to drill for NG here are about, oh, a zillion to one. Way to go Ms. Borgia! You have demonstrated your astute grasp of technology and set your priorities accordingly!
MaryJane Shimsky December 13, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Dear Mr. Miller, The ban is not of the fracking process itself, but of disposing of the highly toxic waste product from the process Westchester County. There is evidence that fracking companies are looking to make deals with localities away from the fracking areas, to accept the waste. If you have any further questions, please contact your local legislator.
Charles Davey December 13, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Thanks for the clarification. Now we need a law banning the bringing in of chemicals in a form that presents a potential hazard or of transporting hazardous waste near populated areas (not the recent NJ bridge spill: what if it had been radioactive waste?), and one that hits at the pollution caused by fracking in streams, woodlands, wetlands etc.
Billy December 13, 2012 at 06:24 PM
MaryJane, I beleive Mark was pointing out that if there's no drilling here, then there's no waste for Westchester to deal with so there was really no point to the legislation. Kind of like, 2 + 2 = 4. No fracking, no wastewater.
Alfred Larson December 13, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Billy, I believe MaryJane was pointing out that no waste products produced by fracking elsewhere. 2 + 2 does = 4. No wastewater or derivatives produced by fracking elsewhere can be brought to the county and disposed of or used here. Does that clear things up for you and Mark?
Billy December 13, 2012 at 08:59 PM
OK Alfred, but I think the costs to transport the waste water from say Salamanca, NY would prohibit that anyway so I really don't see the point of the legislation. More likely they'd take it to Pa somewhere if not locally.
Mark Miller December 14, 2012 at 11:22 AM
Frankly I am disgusted by the way even petty politicians like Borgia play this issue for votes, let alone ambitious panderers like Ball who should know better. The hyperbole is really something, “The toxins involved in hydrofracking waste, including radioactive materials, are among the most harmful known to humankind.” Uh-huh. And so is the stuff I walk on in Manhattan everyday. Life is about weighing and balancing risks. If you take the arguments of the Luddites who oppose fracking too seriously, you will turn into an agoraphobe. I am more concerned about the “green” hedge fund that wants to rip the tops off the hills near my parents’ bucolic home upstate in order to harvest federal and state subsidies even while they lose their investors’ money putting up 150 meter windmills. The Marcellus, for instance, outcrops for probably 150 miles or more across northern New York. So all those “toxins” are present on the surface and have been weathering into our environment for millennia. Here in Westchester you can get radon gas in your home and I had to remediate in a house I built upstate when I sold. It’s hard to get away from. Today I called Halliburton just to confirm what I thought, that the industry no longer uses radioactive tracers in fracking – there are just much better ways of achieving the same objectives. Of course, I don’t hear anyone whining about all that Cesium and whatever down the street in the Northern Westchester Cancer Center.
Mark Miller December 14, 2012 at 11:22 AM
Most of the additives in modern frac water can be found in products in your home and properly handled are safe and even benign. The data is there on the web, provided by the industry, but understanding the data is too difficult for the wooly-headed backers of laws like the one just passed. Too many people are susceptible to the agendas of those who wrap themselves in green. Re MJ’s comment – yes, I understood that and Billy is right on. No one will want to try to inject frac water into granite – an absolute joke! Re CD, guess Northern Westchester will have to close up shop if your suggestion is followed. It’s pretty hazardous stuff they use. I recall syringes washing up on New Jersey beaches, but the actions of a few bad actors weren’t used to impugn the entire healthcare industry. Benefits and risks…
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