Bill banning fracking waste as road de-icer passes Senate, advances in Assembly

Photo by Kevin Coughlin, Office of Governor Cuomo

The New York State Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would ban oil and gas industry waste on state highways.

Bill S.355, sponsored by Sen. Brad Holyman, D-Manhattan, prohibits fluid generated from hydrofracking and any other oil and gas drilling from being applied to roads as a de-icing agent. Fracking chemicals can seep into groundwater and cause pollution to streams and rivers while exposing people to unsafe levels of radioactivity.

Even though we’ve banned hydrofracking in New York, we haven’t banned all uses of waste generated by fracking and other oil and gas drilling,” Sen. Holyman said in a statement. “When these toxic chemicals are spread on our highways, they don’t just magically disappear after they melt ice, they runoff and seep into our rivers, lakes and groundwater. That poisons our environment and puts our drinking water at risk.”

The companion legislation in the State Assembly, bill A.903, is sponsored by Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell, D-Manhattan, and will prohibit the use of drilling fluids, brine and flowback water from wells, pools or fields on any highway.

The Assembly bill has advanced to a third reading.

Fifteen counties in New York have already banned this practice, but the legislation would enact the ban statewide. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued revised regulations in 2017 banning the use of waste from high-volume fracking on roadways, but continued to allow road spreading of other liquids from oil and gas drilling operations.

The counties that have already enacted a ban on fracking waste include Albany, Ulster, Rockland, Westchester, Orange, Putnam, Oneida, Tompkins, Nassau, Suffolk, Erie, Onondaga, Schoharie, Clinton and Cayuga.

The legislation will look to codify the DEC’s 2017 prohibition on fracking waste.

Oil and gas industry waste is dirty, toxic and radioactive — it does not belong in our communities or on our roads,” said Food and Water Watch Senior New York Organizer Eric Weltman, in a statement. “Posing a direct threat to public health and water quality, current state policies on road spreading do little more than maintain a market for oil and gas industry waste. We applaud Senator Hoylman’s leadership in safeguarding our public health through this proposed legislation. With today’s vote, New York has moved one crucial step closer toward moving off fossil fuels.”