The state Assembly has passed a measure that would classify wastewater from hydrofracking as hazardous — leaving Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) by his own admission, with some work to do on the Senate side in Albany.
Avella is an ardent opponent of hydrofracking, the process by which natural gas is extracted from underground rock formations by blasting the rock with water and chemicals at high pressure.
Avella and others oppose using the process upstate on the grounds that the chemicals could pollute sources of groundwater that supply New York City. They also question whether or not the process could damage underground tunnels through which the water travels from upstate.
“The problem is that in the Senate, Republicans are in favor of fracking, and they don’t want any restrictions on the process,” Avella said.
The senator is the ranking Democrat on the Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee.
Existing state regulations specifically exempt water and effluent from the fracking process from classification as toxic.
Avella’s bill, S.4616, is essentially the same one that passed in the Assembly to eliminate that loophole. He thinks that if it passes, Gov. Cuomo will sign it.
“I want to ban hydrofracking, but if it is going to be done, this bill is the minimum that should be done,” Avella said. “If the Republicans want fracking, the DEC needs to have the best possible regulations if they’re interested in protecting the water for the city and the people of New York.
“The waste from hydrofracking is very toxic; some of it is radioactive,” Avella said. “And it is not regulated as if it is toxic, which is absurd.”
Avella has 27 cosponsors in the 62-member chamber. Among them two Republicans, including Sen. Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo), the chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee.
Avella and Ricardo Gotla, legislative director for the New York League of Conservation Voters, both hope the senator can entice a few Republicans to their camp.
“We have some work to do in the Senate,” Gotla said. “We do need to get this done, but they haven’t even done the budget yet.”
The Assembly bill, introduced by Assemblyman Bob Sweeney (D-LI), passed on Feb. 14. Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) was a cosponsor.
Weprin, in a statement issued by his office on Feb. 16, said it was an easy call.
“I was a proud cosponsor,” Weprin said. “If fracking is to go forward in New York State, and right now that is a big if, it is imperative that the proper regulatory oversight mechanisms are put in place to protect New Yorkers against contamination of our drinking water, soil, and food.”
He said those must include regulations and oversight of the management and transportation of any hazardous waste produced from the entire process.