New York Governor Cuomo signed S.3392 (May)/A.2655 (Englebright) into law, closing a hazardous waste loophole that has allowed over 640,000 tons of waste from fracking sites in Pennsylvania to be disposed of in the state. New York has become first state in the US to ensure that oil and gas waste that meets the definition of “hazardous” is properly regulated. Efforts are underway in Pennsylvania to take similar action.
“New York has set a powerful precedent to treat hazardous oil and gas waste for what it is,” says Earthworks’ Policy Analyst Melissa Troutman. “This victory for the health and safety of communities should be quickly repeated in Pennsylvania, the origin of NY’s fracking waste, and ultimately adopted by Congress. All communities in the United States deserve protection from potentially hazardous and radioactive oil and gas waste.”
In 2015, Township residents voted for a Home Rule Charter, a kind of local constitution containing a “Community Bill of Rights, which banned injection wells as a violation of the rights of those living in the township. Grant Township’s Home Rule Charter also recognized rights of nature.
In 2017, DEP sued Grant Township, claiming the local charter interfered with its ability to enforce state oil and gas regulations—regulations that protect business “rights” to profit at the expense of environmental and public health.
The Department of Environmental Protection sued Grant Township for trying to protect the environment
“Grant Township realized that DEP has no ear for hearing that a radioactive frack waste dump is a dangerous and bad project for a rural, poor community like ours,” said Grant Township Supervisor Vice-Chair Stacy Long. “DEP’s job is to permit a certain amount of damage, and then try to mitigate it after the damage occurs. That is unacceptable to the people of this community, so we said ‘NO.’ And then we got sued by our own DEP. We’re glad our case continues.”
“We’re happy to continue to stand with Grant Township in the face of DEP’s bullying,” said Chad Nicholson, CELDF Pennsylvania Community Organizer. “Grant’s creative and staunch resistance to the industry and their own hostile state government has ensured that there is still no injection well in Grant. But the fight needs to continue until all communities, including Grant, are able to protect themselves from harmful corporate activities.”
On Sept. 17, 2019, a proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution was introduced into the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (HB 1813) to secure powers for local governments to ban harmful activities such as injection wells.