The fracking waste ban passed by Ridgefield voters at a packed town meeting in January is still on the books, although it’s now superseded by a similar state law. And the main point — to ban the use of products that contain fracking waste in all public projects — is still the law in town, but remains an illusive practical goal.
“It seems the new state law will preempt local laws,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi told the June 19 selectmen’s meeting.
“Our ordinance is moot and void at present?” asked Selectman Bob Hebert.
“It’s superseded by the state,” said Selectwoman Barbara Manners.
Marconi said he’d checked with the town’s attorneys.
“The question to counsel: ‘Does this bill supersede the ordinance?’ The answer was ‘yes,’” he said.
But Marconi said the town is still having difficulty finding paving companies that will certify that their products are completely free of fracking waste.
“It’s hard to tell what will happen with fracking in paving...” Marconi said. “The issue is we cannot get a company to sign, as a supplier.”
At this point, Marconi said, the town planned to proceed with this summer’s paving work without asphalt providers’ assurance that their products are free of fracking waste.
“We are moving forward, unless you as a board tell me to stop,” Marconi told the selectmen.
Conservation activists
Michael Garguilo, the local environmental activist who engineered Ridgefield’s adoption of an anti-fracking ordinance similar to those passed by many other Connecticut towns, regards the state action as a step forward. He noted that the state ban is based on the model ordinance conservation-minded citizens in Ridgefield and other Connecticut towns used in putting together and passing local anti-fracking laws.
“All of our hard work has paid off,” he told The Press in a June 24 email. “Our local (Ridgefield) fracking-waste ban, along with many other communities, was vital to bringing awareness to the cause and promoting the statewide ban...
“Without work at the local level it is unlikely the statewide ban would have got passed,” he said. “This is a great example of how a grassroots movement by a select few can result in larger protections. More people should take action in causes they feel strongly about.”
The Connecticut League of Conservation Voters listed passage of the fracking waste ban as one of its ‘wins’ in the recently-ended legislative session.
“On the last day of the session, the House gave it final approval to a statewide fracking waste ban, keeping these dangerous materials out of Connecticut and protecting our public health,” said a June 7 update from the conservation league.
According to a summary provided by the conservation league: “This bill, with a limited exception for research, permanently bans accepting, receiving, collecting, storing, treating, transferring, selling, acquiring, handling, applying, processing, and disposing of hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) waste, natural gas waste, or oil waste in Connecticut.”
The previous law had imposed “a narrower ban” and called upon the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to adopt regulations to control fracking by-products as “a hazardous waste.”
The analysis says the new law also “bans the sale, offer, barter, manufacture, distribution, and use of anti-icing, de-icing, pre-wetting, or dust suppression products derived from or containing fracking waste, natural gas waste, or oil waste.”
The analysis says the new law would “eliminate the exemption in the state’s hazardous management regulations for drilling fluids, produced waters, and other wastes associated with exploring, developing, or producing crude oil, natural gas or geothermal energy.”
The reason why
Garguilo wants the ban enforced — with the town finding suppliers who will provide and certify that their products don’t contain any fracking byproducts.
“That is 100 percent the reason we put the ban in place,” he said. “We only want to work with people/companies that are going to avoid the ‘fracking-waste’ material. Even if it cost us extra, we, as a community, would rather pay more money for the safety of generations to come. We welcome the companies that have high morals and ethics.”
Garguilo saw Ridgefield’s law as playing a part in building momentum for passage of the state law.
“Instead of our local law being ‘moot or unnecessary,’ it was a steeping stone to getting a larger protection put into place,” he said. “That is how good politics works. And next year, if the state decides to pull away the protection, for whatever reason, we are still protected by our local ban. So we have double shielding, at the local level and the state level. Good for us.
“We need to look at the positives of things and stop always looking for the negative,” Garguilo added. “Let’s be a more compassionate and friendly community. A community that cares about all, including the next generation and the ecosystems.”