County legislature passes bill to ban dumping waste from fracking
ALBANY COUNTY — The Albany County Legislature unanimously passed a bill on Monday night that bans the disposal of hydraulic fracturing waste in area landfills.
The legislature was led in the vote on Local Law D by Bryan Clenahan, a Guilderland resident, who represents the 30th District.
If County Executive Daniel McCoy signs off on it, Albany will be the third — and largest — county in the state to ban the disposal of fracking waste in landfills.
Hydraulic fracturing — a form of mining which uses pressurized fluid to break rock formations and release natural gas — is banned in New York, but is an active practice in nearby Pennsylvania.
“We don’t even know exactly what is in fracking waste, but we know it contains toxins and radioactive materials,” Clenahan told The Enterprise this week. “We wanted to send the message that Albany County won’t be the dumping ground for it.”
Since 2010, a report showed, 510,000 tons of solid hydraulic fracturing waste, and 23,000 barrels of liquid waste, had been dumped in five landfills in New York State.
None of these landfills were in Albany County, said Clenahan; most were near the border of Pennsylvania, which is where the hydraulic fracturing occurs. However, there was some dumping in Syracuse, and Clenahan said he feared haulers would migrate to this area eventually.
A lawyer, he helped draft the local law as a means to prevent that.
“The waste that was brought to New York was transported by truck, and I suspect Pennsylvania was just looking for another place to get rid of it,” said Clenahan.
This is not the first law involving fracking waste that Clenahan has worked on.
In 2013, he worked on a law that banned the disposal of fracking waste in wastewater treatment facilities and as a treatment for icy roads.
“I really wanted to expand on that law to ban it in landfills,” he said.
Clenahan began drafting Local Law D last summer, working with other advocates, including Riverkeeper, Environmental Advocates of New York, and Grassroots Environmental Education.
A violation of the law will be a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 or 30 days in prison.
The Albany County Department of Public Works is authorized to carry out the requirements of the local law.
“We will certainly have to rely on citizens reporting anything suspicious,” said Clenahan. “But, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection documents all waste that leaves and where it goes, so there is a paper trail.
We wanted to make sure we had very tight legislation in the county so fracking companies won’t find any loopholes,” he said.
The law awaits McCoy’s signature and will be effective 90 days after being filed in the Office of the Secretary of State.
“It is very much a bipartisan bill, so we are hopeful,” said Clenahan.