Sunday, November 28, 2021

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Guilford BOS Moves Closer to Anti-Fracking Ordinance

Guilford officials took a step toward banning the use of fracking waste in town. On Feb. 20, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) discussed details of a proposed anti-fracking waste transport and storage ordinance and set out a path to a public hearing for resident approval.

Fracking waste, as the name suggests, is a byproduct of fracking (short for hydraulic fracturing), which uses high-pressure water to extract petroleum products from bedrock. While fracking is not practiced in the state, the amount of waste generated at fracking sites often requires the waste to move across state lines either for disposal or repurposing. Due to Connecticut’s proximity to Pennsylvania, a state with a large fracking industry, local groups have been looking a ways to ban the liquid waste within this state.

Residents first gathered at the BOS meeting on Jan. 16 to ask the board to consider a ban. Locals turned up to hear a presentation from Terri Cain. According to the presentation, if Guilford were to pass a local ordinance banning fracking waste, it would be the 35th municipality in the state to do so. Branford has already passed a ban and Madison is currently working through the process.

According to the presentation, components of oil and gas drilling waste include natural toxins and radioactive radium that are known to cause cancers, nervous system and organ damage, birth defects, and many other health problems. The State of Connecticut currently has a temporary moratorium on fracking waste storage, but critics say it is filled with loopholes. State law also mandates the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) to submit regulations for review by July 1.

At the Jan. 16 meeting, board members seemed to be in agreement with the concept of a ban. The draft ordinance is the same document used by 33 other municipalities in the state, but selectmen agreed it would be prudent to have the town attorney review the document.

In-House Counsel Pam Millman has been working with the Branford ordinance as a model. She said, based on her research and conversations with other attorneys, that the Guilford ordinance needs to be narrowed a bit.

“…On a state level, they are not defining hydraulic fracturing as dealing with oil extraction,” she said. “They limit it to gas extraction. I am going through the legislative history on that as to what there thinking was—if it was a lobbying concept—so there are provisions within the Branford ordinance that I think are just beyond the ability of the town to enforce. Language like storage, disposal, sale, acquisition, handling, and treatment.”

Millman said the Branford ordinance says that any testing of suspect materials would be done by DEEP or another third party, something she said is unlikely to be practical. She said she is looking at other enforcement options.

“There is a whole citation process that we are allowed to do under the Home Rule Act, the authority of what subject matters you can create ordinances on has built into that whole citation process…The draft includes tracking that,” she said, adding, “the teeth are there, it’s just that whole inspection thing to prove it needs to be fleshed out.”

Millman also noted that some towns are waiting to see what kind of regulations DEEP might put forward at the end of this year.

“Given the fact that DEEP has 400 empty seats in their office, I am not at all confident that DEEP is going to get that regulation out on time,” said First Selectman Matt Hoey. “So putting a stake in the ground is important, at least it is to me.”

Ordinances have to be approved by public hearing. The town has tentatively set a date for the public hearing of Tuesday, March 13 at 7:30 p.m. at a location to be determined.


Zoe Roos covers news for Guilford and Madison for Zip06. Email Zoe at z.roos@shorepublishing.com.

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