What goes down must come up: Pennsylvania’s hydraulic fracturing (“fracking“) operations produce over a billion gallons of salt- and chemical-laced wastewater per year, and all of that water has to go somewhere. This week, Connecticut joined the growing trend of neighboring states seeking to ban the receipt, processing, storage, or disposal of fracking waste within their borders. Moreover, Connecticut’s moratorium on fracking waste includes provisions that may deter energy companies from sending their wastewater to Connecticut even after the moratorium is lifted.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law a moratorium that declares that “[n]0 person may accept, receive, collect, store, treat, transfer or dispose of waste from hydraulic fracturing” in Connecticut for at least three years. Critically, the law requires the Connecticut Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection to issue new regulations that mandate the “disclosure of the composition of the waste from hydraulic fracturing.” The law explicitly states that these disclosures would be subject to Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act. Although trade secrets are exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information Act, the prospect of time-consuming back-and-forth with the state over what information is subject to the trade-secret exemption may deter companies from sending their fracking-waste to Connecticut altogether.
With its moratorium, Connecticut joins a trend of Northeastern states–who are geographically close to Pennsylvania’s large-scale fracking operations but who do not have fracking operations themselves–seeking to ban the storage, processing, or disposal of fracking waste-water. Vermont led the pack in 2012, when it passed a law banning both fracking and the receipt of fracking wastewater. New Jersey legislators attempted to follow suit the same year, but the bill was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie. Just this past month, the New Jersey senate again overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill to ban fracking wastewater; it is unclear whether the state assembly, and the governor, will support this effort. New York state senators also proposed a waste-water ban in May, but it has not yet moved forward within the legislature. However, just this week, the New York state assembly passed a three-year moratorium on fracking operations altogether, although political commentators say it is unlikely that the state senate will address the bill before next week’s adjournment.