- Water Rangers Host Toxic Fracking Cocktail Party for NYS Senate

Water Rangers Host Toxic Fracking Cocktail Party for NYS Senate

Groups Call on Senate, Gov Cuomo to Close Hazardous Waste Loophole for Gas Industry

ALBANY, NY (06/06/2012)--The New York Water Rangers, organizations working to protect the state's waters and communities from the dangers of industrial gas drilling by means of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," hosted a Toxic Cocktail Party outside the State Senate Majority Conference Room today to call attention to the need to close the hazardous waste loophole in state law. If Governor Cuomo allows fracking, one of the biggest challenges facing the state will be ensuring the gas industry safely handles, treats, and disposes of toxic fracking wastes so it doesn't harm human health and the environment. Currently, state law does not require drillers to report with any specificity how much waste is created, what's in it, and how it's being disposed. Due to the presence of chemicals, extremely high levels of salt, and even radioactive elements, much of the waste resulting from fracking would be classified as hazardous if it were not exempt.

"Every day in New York toxic cocktails arrive at drilling sites as regulated hazardous materials. These chemical fracking fluids are pumped into the ground to extract gas. But when they come back up, the waste is no longer considered 'hazardous' thanks to exemptions and loopholes in state regulation." said Roger Downs, Conservation Director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. "New York State is in for one big hangover if we do not get a handle on our hazardous fracking fluid intake. The State Senate needs to help close the hazardous waste drilling loophole once and for all."

"An ambulance is the only chaser for these cocktails," said David VanLuven, Director of Environment New York. "The loophole exempts Big Oil and Gas waste from being treated as hazardous no matter how toxic, how dangerous, or even how radioactive it is. Toxic frack cocktails might make a good joke, but endangering public health and safety with legal loopholes is no laughing matter."

"The first round is on me when the New York State Senate acts to close the hazardous waste loophole, creating safeguards that will protect New Yorkers from fracking," said Katherine Nadeau, Water & Natural Resources Program Director, Environmental Advocates of New York. "For decades, the oil and gas industry has gotten a free pass on regulations designed to safeguard our communities and drinking water. It's time for New York's leaders to close the loophole and guarantee that fracking wastes stay out of municipal sewage treatment plants and the waterways that provide our drinking water, opportunities for outdoor recreation, and habitat for wildlife."

Dressed as servers, as accompanied by bouncer Wes Gillingham with Catskill Mountainkeeper, the Water Rangers and allies served mock fracking-themed cocktails to senators, including the Albany Sour, Long Island Frack Tea, Flaming Buffalo, Ithaca Sling, and ScrewedRiver.

S. 4616 / A. 7013 would make all hazardous waste produced by oil and gas drilling subject to the same regulations for hazardous waste generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal that apply to other industries. The bill does not presume that fracking waste is hazardous. Rather it holds the gas industry to the same standards as every other industry in the state.

"Nationwide and here in New York, gas and oil companies insist having Happy Hour all the time," said Nadia Steinzor, Marcellus Regional Organizer with Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project. "The hazardous waste and other exemptions from bedrock environmental protections means the industry doesn't have to play by the same rules as all others, and makes citizens pick up the tab for harm caused to people, air, and water."

The gas industry is eager to drill in New York State using hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." But tragedies due to un- and poorly regulated fracking-including flammable tap water in Colorado, methane explosions in West Virginia, and poisoned water in Pennsylvania-show what could happen to New York if state leaders put short-term gas profits ahead of the long-term health of our water and our communities.