UPDATE on Landfilling of Marcellus Drilling Wastes in New York State

by Duane Nichols on August 8, 2020

Black drill cuttings at the drill pad in Penna.

Gov. Cuomo signs hazardous waste bill, closing loophole allowing import of gas drilling waste from Pennsylvania

From an Article by Peter Mantius, The Water Front Online, August 5, 2020

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill August 3rd that makes New York the first state in the nation to apply hazardous waste laws to potentially toxic oil and gas byproducts.

The action, coming just months after the state codified into law its 2014 policy ban on fracking for shale, solidifies the governor’s legacy of applying public health standards to a powerful and often weakly regulated industry.

The bill’s legislative sponsors and leading environmental groups praised the governor for closing a “dangerous loophole” in the way oil and gas wastes are regulated.

However, throughout Cuomo’s near-decade in office, oil and gas drilling wastes from hundreds of fracked Pennsylvania wells have been dumped in upstate New York landfills and spread on the state’s roadways.

Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation supervised the flood of waste imports with apparent deference to the industry and its backers, downplaying the health risks and even denying outright the existence of the problem.

“No fracking waste is being dumped in New York,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos told a legislative hearing on Sept. 7, 2016. That prompted the Poynter Institute’s Politifact to rate the statement “False” on its “Truth-O-Meter.”

That wasn’t an uncharacteristic stray statement. Asked late last month to comment on the hazardous waste bill, a DEC spokesperson provided an agency response that said, in part: “To be clear, there is no loophole for fracking waste.”

Fracking fluids, the July 28 DEC statement to WaterFront continued, are prohibited in New York landfills, while solid wastes imports that are permitted are carefully screened to “protect public health and the environment.”

Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany, said in an affidavit: “The net effect of New York accepting drill cuttings and de-watered mud from Pennsylvania fracking sites will be that New Yorkers will have an increased risk of cancer, especially lung and gastrointestinal cancers, and increase of birth defects coming from DNA damage and an increased risk of shortened life span.”

Anthony Ingraffea, a retired professor of rock mechanics at Cornell University, said in a recent interview: “Perhaps we’ll never know what the environmental and health impacts of all that (fracking waste) currently in New York will be. They’ve made our bed, and now we have to lie in it.”

Since January 2011, New York landfills have imported more than 638 thousand tons of waste from Marcellus shale gas wells in Pennsylvania, according to records that state maintains. (New York doesn’t maintain its own statistics).

Those landfills and unrelated transfer stations have imported more than four thousand barrels of liquid shale drilling wastes. (A graphic in the original article by Melissa Troutman of Earthworks uses Pennsylvania data to show NY imports of Pennsylvania’s shale waste from 2011 to 2019.)


NOTE: This excellent article is quite long and detailed. It should be read in its entirety. The author, Peter Mantius is the creator and editor of The Water Front Online, the region’s only news organization dedicated to environmental issues in the Finger Lakes and Upstate New York.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: