For Immediate Release
Today, ahead of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22nd, a coalition of over 120 organizations issued a letter to the New York legislature, calling for immediate passage of legislation to protect New York from fracking waste.
The letter, signed by 129 environmental, health, and community groups, urges the State Senate and Assembly to eliminate a loophole in state regulations that exempts oil and gas waste from being regulated as hazardous waste. The legislation, S. 3392 / A. 2655, was introduced in the Senate by Rachel May and in the Assembly by Steve Englebright.
Despite the ban on fracking, New York still accepts fracking waste from Pennsylvania, which is dumped into landfills, and oil and gas waste has even been used for de-icing or dust suppression on roads. Since 2010, over 650,000 tons and 23,000 barrels of oil and gas waste has been disposed of in New York landfills from Pennsylvania’s drilling operations.
This waste can be highly toxic and radioactive, containing cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene, toluene, and formaldehyde, along with heavy metals and radioactive materials.
Advocates are calling on the Legislature to convene on Earth Day to pass the legislation.
“The pandemic has only highlighted the need for clean water. Having just enshrined our fracking ban into law, the Legislature should now protect New York’s water from fracking waste,” said Eric Weltman, a Brooklyn-based senior organizer with Food & Water Action. “On Earth Day, it’s only fitting that the Legislature take another important step towards making New York frack-free.”
“On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, New York has the opportunity to, once again, show national leadership on fracking by protecting New Yorkers from dangerous fracking waste,” said Liz Moran, environmental policy director for the New York Public Interest Research Group. “Hazardous waste needs to be treated as hazardous waste - there is no reason to have a special carveout for the oil and gas industry. The days of regulatory leniency for polluting industries must end.”
"It is very concerning that waste material from the oil and gas industry is allowed to be spread on public roads throughout New York State, including in watershed areas. The only logical reason why this is allowed, is to do a favor for the fossil fuel industry. New York needs to take action to protect public health and water quality and stop this risky practice. It has been allowed to go on for far too long," said Judith Enck, former EPA Regional Administrator.
“Weeks after enshrining New York’s fracking ban into law, the legislature can advance its leadership by closing a loophole that exempts dangerous oil and gas waste from longstanding hazardous waste laws,” said Rob Friedman, Policy Advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council. “This insidious loophole has allowed hundreds of thousands of tons of drilling waste from fracking operations in neighboring Pennsylvania to be sent to landfills throughout New York without sufficient oversight. The Legislature must step up and close this loophole to protect the health and safety of all New Yorkers."
“Major oil companies have known for more than 40 years that the tremendous amount of waste brought to the surface in oil and gas production contains heavy metals, carcinogens and radioactivity. Yet the Environmental Protection Agency has enabled this toxic waste to be placed in un-marked trucks, driven through America's communities by uninformed drivers, and dumped in local landfills because, in EPA's own words, to appropriately regulate the material as ‘hazardous’ would cause ‘a severe economic impact on the industry and on oil and gas production in the U.S.’ Unfortunately, this outrageous free pass has contaminated an untold number of the industry's own workers, left a growing trail of toxic and radioactive waste striped across the nation, and ensured that the American public remains ignorant. The science has been there for decades to indicate that the oil and gas industry's waste poses a public health catastrophe, and the people of the future will surely mock the Stone Age mentality of the regulators and legislators that have enabled this disaster to continue,” said Justin Nobel, Rolling Stone science journalist, New York resident, and author of upcoming book with Simon & Schuster, Petroleum 238 - Big Oil’s Dangerous Secret and the Grassroots Fight to Stop It.
"Despite the serious public health threat posed to New Yorkers by the carcinogens, radioactive contaminants, heavy metals and other hazardous materials in fracking waste dumped in our landfills and spread on our roads, the oil and gas industry is exempt from hazardous waste laws," said Ellen Weininger, Director of Educational Outreach at Grassroots Environmental Education. "It's time to put a halt to this dangerous free pass that enables hazardous radioactive fracking waste to poison our air, land and water by closing the hazardous waste loophole without further delay."
"Since 2010, over 650,000 tons and 23,000 barrels of oil and gas waste has been disposed of in New York landfills from Pennsylvania’s drilling operations," said Melissa Troutman, a policy analyst at Earthworks who also lives on the frontlines of fracking in northern Pennsylvania. "Taking this waste is problematic for New York and also supports continued fracking just across the border, here in Pennsylvania."
"New York has already taken bold steps to protect people and communities from health threats posed by the petroleum industry," said Kathy Curtis, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York. "Enacting a policy to close the hazardous waste loophole would be a logical next step in the commitment New York has demonstrated to putting people over profits. Furthermore, the truth matters. Separating fact from fiction becomes increasingly important each day, and this bill eliminates linguistic detoxification by appropriately labeling fracking waste as hazardous."
“Toxic fracking waste has no business in New York’s landfills and on our highways. Despite a statewide ban on fracking, New York still has a gaping loophole that allows this radioactive waste to be brought in from other states, putting our water and our residents at risk. Let’s celebrate Earth Day 2020 by prioritizing clean water, and getting rid of this egregious pass for polluters once and for all,” said Maureen Cunningham, Senior Director for Clean Water at Environmental Advocates of New York.
“Thanks to a statewide fracking ban implemented five years ago, New York’s bedrock is unfractured. And yet New Yorkers’ health and safety remain imperiled because toxic, radioactive oil and gas waste from out-of-state fracking operations is still shipped into our state for disposal. I urge Governor Cuomo and our legislature to finish the job that our fracking ban started by passing common-sense legislation that prevents New York from serving as a dumping ground for fracking waste—and, in so doing, further constrain this harmful, out-of-control, climate-killing industry,” said biologist Sandra Steingraber, PhD, co-founder Concerned Health Professionals New York.