Hydraulic fracturing is banned statewide, but county legislators want to ensure none of the waste produced from the natural gas extraction method enters local landfills.
Albany County legislators on Tuesday, April 13, unanimously passed Local Law “D” for 2014, which bans the disposal of natural gas waste or oil waste at any solid waste management facility within the county. One Republican lawmaker contested the breadth of the law before voting in favor. Environmental advocates rallied for proposal before its passage claiming such disposal would expose residents to potential health risks.
There is no evidence, or belief, hydraulic fracturing waste has been disposed at any landfill within the county. The law serves as a preventative measure from such activity ever occurring, according to Legislator Bryan Clenahan, D-Guilderland, who spearheaded the bill.
“The time to act and legislate on these things is in advance and not after it’s already an issue,” Clenahan said after the meeting. “There is a company in Ravena that advertises its capability to treat fracking waste to make it acceptable for landfills. There are companies that may be looking to do it around here, so we thought it was important to get ahead of the curve.”
Clenahan said the local law builds upon the county’s approach to regulating fracking waste. Prior laws have banned such waste from being used to treat icy roads and disposed at wastewater treatment facilities.
Albany County’s proposal comes after the Environmental Advocates of New York released its report “License to Dump,” which claimed the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection reported “at least 460,000 tons of solid fracking waste and 23,000 barrels of liquid waste have been dumped in seven New York landfills.”
Legislator Alison McLean Lane, D- Menands, contested introducing fracking waste to local landfills would be detrimental to the environment and public.
“If these materials do get into our solid waste and landfills, and do get into our leaching pools … it is going to ultimately end up in our groundwater and in the Hudson River,” McLean Lane said.
Aaron Mair, of Guilderland, claimed fracking waste would eventually leak out of landfills and place the public in danger.
“At the end of the day it leaks, lets be crystal clear,” said Mair, a member of the Sierra Club Board of Directors. “Not only should we be passing this local law here, but we should be asking Schenectady County and Mohawk County” to pass the same law.
Fracking waste contains hundreds of chemicals, according to Environmental Advocates of New York, with many being carcinogens. When the waste is disposed at landfills the runoff captures these chemicals, some potentially radioactive, which end up in leachate pools. The fluid from these pools is sent to wastewater treatment plants without the capability to treat potentially radioactive waste, according to Environmental Advocates.
The county Department of Public Works would be empowered to enforce the ban. A violation of the law would be an unclassified misdemeanor carrying a fine up to $25,000 per violation, along with up to 30 days in jail. Each disposal would be considered a separate violation.
“Every landfill is going to have to incorporate this into their policies,” said Clenahan.
County Executive Dan McCoy must sign off on the law, which would then become effective 90 days after its filed with the state.