The controversial practice of fracking – using large amounts of pressurized water and other materials to extract natural gas from underground layers of shale rock – is attracting plenty of attention from Connecticut lawmakers.
The legislative session is only a two weeks old and already three bills regarding the practice, also know as hydraulic fracturing. Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said fracking is not currently being done in Connecticut, but that agency has already established a position on the issue.
“We believe their is great potential in making more domestic natural gas available by extracting it from shale rock,” Schain said, adding that the agency’s position relates to fracking in general, not whether it should be done in Connecticut. “However, we believe it must be done carefully and in an environmentally responsible manner.”
For now, the primary focus on fracking at the moment is along the Marcellus Shale Deposit, which contains one of the largest fields of natural gas in the world. It is a geological formation that stretches beneath 575 miles of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York.
Two of the bills – one introduced by State Representative Bryan Hurlburt, D-Tolland, and the other by State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, are related to banning waste produced by fracking from being used or stored in the state. The third piece of legislation, sponsored by State Rep. Matthew Lesser D-Middletown, focuses on keeping fracking from being done in Connecticut.
A coalition of 17 state environmental groups is urging state lawmakers to enact some kind of fracking legislation before the session ends.
“There are so many wells that have already been drilled out there that we need to get out ahead of this issue,” said Nancy Alderman, president of North Haven-based Environment and Human Health, a group that has launched a web site devoted to fracking issues in the state.
There are presently 8,848 either active wells or well permits for drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania, according to the Powdermill Nature Reserve, the research center of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pennsylvania. Of that number, 6,391 are drilled and active.
Alderman said a typical natural gas well takes between 2 to 5 million gallons of fluid to frack. Of that, 10 to 50 percent of the toxic fluid returns to the surface, she said.
“The returning fluid not only contains the toxic chemicals that were in the fracking fluid – but when it returns to the surface it contains radioactive materials and salts that it picked up from deep inside the earth,” she said. “The waste fluid sometimes also contains arsenic from deep inside the earth.”
Vermont lawmakers voted last spring to ban fracking and the storage of its waste byproducts and others states are considering bans.
“Pennsylvania has had a lot of its streams polluted because of this,” Alderman said. “Connecticut is better off being safe than sorry.”
Call Luther Turmelle at 203-789-5706.
© 2013 The Litchfield County Times, a Journal Register Property