Fracking opponent makes case to Common Council

Register-Star | Joe Gentile

February 13, 2013
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HUDSON — Common Council members recently received recognition from environmentalist Nadia Steinzor for facing hydraulic fracturing “head on and proactively.”

Invited by Common Council President Donald Moore, Steinzor approached Monday night’s meeting by giving the aldermen insight into the community-level work she does as the Eastern Program Coordinator for Earthworks, an environmental non-profit. Built upon the foundation of the former Mineral Policy Center, Earthworks has collaborated over the last 25 years with “federal, state and local leaders to evaluate the impact of mining and gas development on communities,” she said.

“So many of them are trying to play catch up to deal with the impact of the natural gas lobby,” Steinzor said.

So far statewide, Steinzor indicated there are already 45 municipal bans upon hydrofracking, with more than 100 additional moratoriums. Hudson, Steinzor indicated, is far from alone, as it is one of 90 New York state communities “on the move” toward putting prohibitions on hydrofracking into law.

“We are dealing with an industry that uses toxic, carcinogenic chemicals,” Steinzor said. “This gets at the heart of why it’s so important to have legislation.”

Draft legislation defeated by the Common Council last December depicted the “waste stream” being generated from hydrofracking as largely unregulated under current federal and state environmental laws. High volumes of hydrofracking wastewater, mentioned by the legislation, are not subject to the “joint, several and strict liability provision of the state or federal Superfund laws, nor has the industry uniformly disclosed the constituents of its waste stream.”

Four years of reviews by federal and New York state officials, Steinzor said, have failed to close a litany of loopholes. More than 70 percent of New York state’s active oil and natural gas wells, Earthworks found, sit uninspected each year due to budget cuts at New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Steinzor anticipated the number of inspections, and inspectors, would only continue to drop.

“Currently, there are no requirements that the solid waste and wastewater be designated as hazardous materials,” Steinzor said. “This is the only industry to have that exemption. It could be passing through your town right now, and it wouldn’t be identified.”

The city’s proposed ban has identified the “grossly excessive volumes of truck traffic due to the transportation of waste and wastewater” as a chief complaint. Treatment of any hydrofracking waste at Hudson’s wastewater treatment plant would be specifically prohibited, as would the dispersal of any solution which contains hydrofracking wastewater on “any streets, roadways or highways within the city of Hudson” as a de-icing agent.

“Municipal home rule can be used in fracking bans,” Moore stated as the result of a court decision Roberts helped litigate.

Nevertheless, Roberts found herself bombarded by questions from concerned citizens about the treatment and storage of hydrofracking waste material.

“They found by trucking it that it costs more than to transport it by barge,” city resident Helen Arrott said. “I’m very concerned about protecting our waterfront.”

Cheryl Stuart, a resident of Hudson’s Fifth Ward, loudly complained that “we have no teeth in our legislation” that could deter those barges.

“Our authority extends to the waterfront,” Roberts replied, adding that the city could not interfere with interstate commerce.

In response to Stuart’s concerns, Roberts said existing penalties are already written into Chapter 266 of Hudson’s City Code. Violators may be subject to up to 15 days of imprisonment, a $250 per day fine, or both.

“We’re a couple of months away from getting the law,” Roberts claimed. “Whenever you have a zoning law, you have to have a public hearing."

Tagged with: new york, fracking

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