4:29pm

Mon March 7, 2011
Marcellus Shale

Protests urge fracking fluid ban

A few dozen protestors outside the Buffalo offices of the Department of Environmental Conservation today called for an executive order by Governor Andrew Cuomo to define fracking fluid as a hazardous waste and ban its treatment by municipal facilities.

"Do your job!"

DEC spokesman Michael Bopp says his agency is looking into the matter. Right now, that means completing a Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) that will address the treatment of toxic fluids resulting from fracking.

“We’re only going to do this at the pace we can. We’re certainly not going to rush the plan or rush the permitting process beyond what our staff can do and do responsibly,” Bopp says.

That study won’t be finished until June 1 at the earliest. In the meantime, municipal water facilities in New York can accept and attempt to treat fracking fluid.

Even though the issue is in a holding pattern, demonstrators still chanted, “Do your job,” at the agency’s building today.

Can local facilities adequately treat fracking fluid?

Small local facilities cannot adequately purify fracking fluid because it contains hundreds of chemicals, including known carcinogens, according to Rita Yelda of the Buffalo chapter of Frack Action, which organized the protest.

Yelda says water is also at risk because layoffs at the DEC could compromise the agency’s work to address fracking issues.

“I realize that they do have challenges, which is all the more reason that we should be really careful going forward with the hydrofracking in New York State, because we can’t really regulate this. There’re no staff at the DEC to regulate this,” Yelda says.

Earlier this year, Buffalo became the first city in New York to ban fracking and the treatment of its fluids. The latter was a result of a contract surfaced indicating fracking fluid had been treated and released in Erie County.

But without an executive order or legislative action, Bopp says the DEC cannot influence the issue beyond working on the SGEIS. Once it's released, the report will be followed by a 30-day public comment period.