Thursday, October 25, 2012

Proposed county fracking law stalls

Posted by on Thu, Oct 25, 2012 at 8:54 AM

For now, Democrats' proposal to prohibit the county from treating fracking-related waste water won't move forward.

Last night, Republican John Howland, the chair of the County Legislature's Environment and Public Works committee, referred the proposal to the Brooks administration for further study. He said it's a complex issue with lots of facts coming from each side of the issue. Howland did not set a timeframe for the administration to report back. Democrat Paul Haney accused Howland of "just sending it [the legislation] to the dustbin."

Democrat Justin Wilcox introduced the moratorium legislation. Fracking waste water is loaded with chemicals, salts, and often some radioactive materials, and Wilcos says he's concerned about the environmental and public health concerns posed by treating the waste water. The state and the federal Environmental Protection Agency are still studying fracking's environmental and health impacts, he noted.

Even if legislature never passes the Democrats' proposal, the county would need state approval to accept and treat fracking waste water. The county's water treatment plants operate under state permits. For the county to get a permit modified, officials would have to analyze the waste they want to take in as well as the plant's ability to treat it. No municipal water treatment plants in the state are permitted to accept fracking fluid. The state DEC has questioned whether any of them are capable of effectively treating the waste water.

During the meeting's public forum last night, three people affiliated with R-CAUSE, a local anti-fracking group, spoke in favor of the legislation.

Jennifer Fitzsimmons of Webster said that while Pennsylvania allows drilling, it does not permit the treatment or disposal of any of the waste water within the state's borders.

"This is a huge public health issue that we all know affects all of us," said Nedra Harvey of Rochester.

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