As the clock counts down toward the end of the 2014 session of the Connecticut General Assembly, Senate Bill 237, AN ACT PROHIBITING THE STORAGE OR DISPOSAL OF FRACKING WASTE IN CONNECTICUT, appears to be withering on the vine.
In other words, some important people or constituencies are trying to kill the vital piece of legislation.
This year’s “Fracking Bill” prohibits the storage or disposal in Connecticut of drilling fluid, wastewater that flows out of petroleum wells (known as produced waters), and other waste associated with the exploration, development, or production of crude oil, natural gas, or geothermal energy.
Without the bill, the waste produced by the fracking process could end up being stored or disposed of here in Connecticut.
While the storage or disposal of fracking waste here in Connecticut could make some people very rich, it would also pose a significant risk to Connecticut’s environment and its citizens.
The bill, as it is presently written, has the support of all of the major Connecticut’s environmental groups including Audubon CT, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Clean Water Action, Connecticut Citizens Action Group, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Conn PIRG, Environment CT, Food and Water Watch, Grassroots Environmental Education, Rivers Alliance, Save the Sound, and the Sierra Club
The bill also has dozens of Democratic and Republican sponsors.
The bill passed the General Assembly’s Environment Committee 22-5.
And then the bill passed the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee 34-6.
It is now sitting on the Senate Calendar waiting to be voted upon before the legislative session ends at Midnight on Wednesday, May 7th, 2014.
In a rather strange interchange on WNPR radio’s “Where We Live” program last week, Governor Malloy testily responded to a question about the bill by saying that a moratorium on fracking waste would pass the legislature this year. (He sort of shouted out his response).
But his tone, and the actions of his lieutenants, seems to suggest that Malloy has some other agenda.
As the bill awaits action, a series of “killer” amendments has suddenly been filed that would effectively destroy the bill’s intent.
In a joint statement last week, Connecticut’s environmental groups recently wrote to legislators stating,
We greatly appreciate the ongoing efforts of the legislative champions who have worked tirelessly on this fracking waste issue. As you know, our organizations have been supporting a ban on fracking waste in Connecticut. In recent weeks however, many of us supported efforts to craft a compromise that, while short of a ban, could be an acceptable step in that direction. In particular, a compromise consisting of a minimum 3 year moratorium combined with language that closes the federal fracking hazardous waste loop-hole, by defining waste from hydraulic fracturing as hazardous waste under state law and regulations.
Unfortunately, the most recent amendments filed on SB237 (LCOs 5059, 5063, 5065, and 5103) seriously weaken what was already a significant compromise. We are deeply concerned that the effect of these newest proposed changes would be to eviscerate one of the core purposes of the bill: to close the proposed federal hazardous waste loophole. Therefore, we regretfully must oppose the bill at this time. In fact, we would prefer that no bill relating to fracking waste be passed this year than one that has been compromised to this extent.
To be clear, we continue to support efforts to enact strong legislation that would prevent Connecticut’s communities from the environmental, economic, and public health threat posed by the disposal of toxic, radioactive fracking wastes. We look forward to, and are ready to work with all interested parties to find an effective solution to achieve that goal, now and in coming years.
Considering the bill to ban the storage and disposal of fracking waste has strong legislative support and Governor Malloy was quoted on the radio as saying he supports the bill, what is really going on behind the scenes?
For starters, Malloy’s “anti-fracking” stance may not be quite what it seems.
For decades, the prices of natural gas and oil have been linked, with gas historically being the more expensive of the two. Over the last several years, the price of the two commodities have diverged, or “decoupled,” from one another. The emergence of new extraction techniques (most notably horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or ―fracking) have made it economic to bring enormous amounts of new domestic natural gas supply to the marketplace from shale basins across the country (including in the mid-Atlantic states).
This recent development presents Connecticut residents and business owners with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to switch to a cheaper, cleaner fuel source.
And as the Raising Hale blog further explains,
In December, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Dan Esty told WNPR, ”In fact, the governor often says he’s very disappointed we don’t have any ‘frackable’ areas. We have shale; it just happens to have no gas in it.”
Malloy’s energy policy applauds fracking and Malloy’s former Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection reports that Governor Malloy repeatedly said he wishes we had “fackable” areas in Connecticut?
But as more and more citizens know, fracking poses an extremely serious threat to our environment.
Considering this is an election year, is it possible that Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy is trying to have it both ways?
While promoting fracking is he now saying, on the radio, that he is for a bill to ensure Connecticut doesn’t become the dumping ground for fracking waste?
And yet while saying he supported a ban, is he now working with selected lobbyists and industries to ensure that a fracking ban doesn’t pass this year.
Malloy’s stance on WNPR’s “Where We Live” was pretty clear. He said,
“We want to stop, right now, fracturing waste at the borders of the state,” he said, “at least with respect to a moratorium, until we have time to understand what’s in it.”
Yet when an important and popular bill gets “stuck” in the legislative process it is because someone important wants it stuck.
When the bill came up for a public hearing, groups opposed to the ban included the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, a company called AirWell H20, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Connecticut Petroleum Council, and the America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA).
While these groups don’t produce a lot of votes in an election, they are a vital pipeline for campaign contributions.
As the legislative clock races toward Wednesday’s midnight deadline, keep a special eye on the bill to ban fracking waste.
How Malloy handles Senate Bill 237 may just give us a sense of whether, in the end, his real priority is the health and safety of Connecticut’s citizens or his own access to the cash cow called the energy industry.
You can hear more about the fracking issue in Connecticut by going to: http://wnpr.org/post/connecticuts-complicated-relationship-natural-gas