Activists Head to Greenwich With Symbolic (And Completely Unnecessary) Fracking Ban Initiative

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There’s no oil and gas development within 150 miles of Greenwich, Conn., but that hasn’t stopped activists from pushing for a symbolic ban on “fracking waste” in the community.

This “Keep It In the Ground” strategy of targeting communities with no oil and gas development to speak of – and no prospects of future development – with unnecessary bans on fracking or related activities is one that has been repeatedly pushed by groups like the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). A perfect example is Connecticut’s New England neighbor Vermont, which — despite have absolutely no fracking or future potential for shale development — was the first state to ban the practice. Similar local initiatives occurred across New York prior to its 2014 statewide fracking ban and in the last couple of years in Florida.

For KIITG groups, it’s a numbers game, and facts – namely, that fracking has been safely conducted across the country for decades and there’s not even any occurring in New England – are just an inconvenience to be brushed aside at the expense of time and monetary cost for communities like Greenwich. Here’s a few of those pesky facts on Greenwich:

#1. There’s no fracking in Greenwich.

This bears repeating – there is no fracking occurring in Greenwich today and there won’t be any in the future, either. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Constitution State produces no oil and natural gas.

#2. Marcellus operators won’t suddenly be looking all the way to Connecticut for waste management.

The nearest shale development to Greenwich is roughly 150 miles away in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, and has been ongoing for about a decade now. As EID recently explained, Pennsylvania’s Marcellus operators have been very innovative when it comes to waste management, particularly of produced water. About 90 percent of the produced water in Pennsylvania is recycled and reused, and solids are often recycled or taken to appropriate nearby landfills.

The fact is, Marcellus operators have been finding creative solutions for waste management in close proximity to their operations for a decade. As the Connecticut Petroleum Council (CPC) recently said in comments about the proposal,

“Geographically, the closest state with fracking is in Pennsylvania, where the vast majority of the produced water waste stream is recycled on-site and reused – the most judicious way of handling it. Non-re-usable wastes are shipped only to states that have EPA-licensed Class II Underground Injection Well, and again – there are none in Connecticut or anywhere in New England because the geology isn’t conducive to it. In short, the oil & gas producing wells in the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale region (PA, OH, and WV) are just too distant to send wastes to Connecticut for treatment, making the ordinance unnecessary. Anyone claiming such wastes have in the past or will in the future come here for storage, treatment or disposal isn’t familiar with industry practices – and should be questioned as to how s/he came to that conclusion.” (emphasis added)

Further, and as the CPC notes, there was a moratorium passed on all fracking waste activity in Connecticut in 2014 and the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) banned Class II (oil and gas) underground injection wells in the state in 1984.

Simply put, Greenwich is wasting time and money on what is a complete non-issue in Connecticut.

#3. Connecticut benefits from oil and natural gas.

That being said, Connecticut is a major consumer of oil and natural gas — a truly a recurring theme across New England.

According to EIA, roughly one-third of Connecticut residents heat their homes with natural gas and its second only to nuclear for net electricity generation, making up about 40 percent of state’s electricity generation. In fact, as of January 2018, the state still generates about six percent of its electricity from oil.

It’s worth noting that EIA explains that “[a]lmost all of the natural gas arriving in the state comes through the state of New York,” and that supply now includes natural gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. So while Greenwich will never see fracking in its borders or handle waste from the Marcellus, it is already likely benefiting from the abundant shale development occurring in Pennsylvania.

EIA continues to explain that “assurance of natural gas supply has become a critical energy issue for the region.” Those supply constraints are, in large part, the result of misguided policies in New York and New England that have blocked the very pipelines needed to deliver natural gas to the region, and as a result led to the highest costs for energy in the world and accepting a shipment of liquified natural gas (LNG) that included supply from a sanctioned facility in Russia this winter.

Whether it’s a ban on waste as is being proposed in Greenwich or blocking pipelines like New York continues to do, these misguided policies have potential unintended consequences with very real impacts for residents.

Conclusion

KIITG groups have been unsuccessful in efforts to pass bans on fracking and related activities in places that have long had oil and gas development, and/or potential for significant shale development. In Youngstown, Ohio for instance, a fracking ban ordinance will be appearing as a ballot measure for the seventh time, even though it has already been defeated by voters six times at the cost of tens of thousands to taxpayers. And while they keep trying their luck in places like Youngstown, studies have shown that the closer proximity people are to the fracking process, the more likely they are to support it, and thus these groups rely on places like Greenwich, where there’s no chance of fracking taking place, to act as low-hanging fruit that bolsters their “win” numbers.

But it clearly isn’t Greenwich that wins in the long run by passing an unnecessary ban.

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