For several years Branford’s RTM (Representative Town Meeting) has been researching and developing a proposal to ban the storage, disposal, or re-purposing of waste from oil-shale fracking in the town. Commercial interests in the fracking regions of the country (think nearby Pennsylvania) need to rid themselves of this toxic mix of chemicals, radioactive material, brine, and sludge. Connecticut has a temporary ban and moratorium until July 2018, at which time Department of Energy & Environmental Protection has been mandated to generate statewide regulations. The outcome of that process could vary widely.
Until recently this ordinance has been favored by thoughtful RTM Republicans as well as Democrats. However, in the last few weeks, vocal bloggers with a special interest in seeing this ordinance defeated have fueled Republican opposition with claims of problems with police enforcement, possible need for additional staff and training, and possible lawsuits from parties contesting the ordinance.
None of these arguments holds up to logical scrutiny. Our police will not need to patrol for offenders, waste resources, or test unknown substances. The primary goal of the proposed ordinance is to send a clear message to commercial fracking-waste disposers that they should look elsewhere. Branford, along with seven other municipalities in the state, are joining with the cities of New York and the State of Vermont in placing a ban on these waste treatment activities. What better issue for the town to defend in the unlikely eventuality of a lawsuit?
The core function of local government is the health and welfare of the community. After the protections of police and fire and the education of our children the most crucial function is the protection of our environment. Historically Branford has pursued an enviable stewardship of its environment. I implore RTM Republicans as well as Democrats to support this forward looking ordinance.
Peter Hentschel is a District 2 RTM representative.