Fracking waste in landfills still a concern

CHARLES TOWN – A bill that would allow unlimited quantities of fracking waste to be deposited in the state’s commercial landfills has passed the House Judiciary Committee and is currently on the House floor awaiting a vote.

[cleeng_content id="821937327" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]While the original version of HB4411, which was authored by the Department of Environmental Protection, would have placed few restrictions on the ability of commercial landfills to accept drill cuttings – earth, shale, drilling mud and other compounds left over after drilling a horizontal well to produce natural gas, and which are known to contain a variety of toxic compounds including natural radioactive materials – House committees added a number of restrictions after the bill enountered opposition from environmentalists and solid waste authorities.

The original bill required only that landfills build separate containment cells in which to deposit the waste, allowing any landfill to construct such a cell and begin collecting waste.

Previously, the House Energy Committee added a requirement that landfills accepting drill cuttings install radiation detectors to monitor incoming shipments. The House Judiciary Committee added more restrictions last week.

The bill now would allow only landfills that had applied for a permit to build a separate drill cuttings cell before the end of last year to accept drill cuttings. This would ostensibly exclude the LCS-North Mountain Landfill in Berkeley County, which has not filed an application. However, Clint Hogbin, who chairs the Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority, says the bill leaves it unclear whether LCS could still apply. He said his board opposes the bill.

The bill would also require the Department of Environmental Protection to establish limits for a variety of toxins contained in drill cuttings, including naturally occurring radioactive materials, heavy metals, benzene, toluene, xylene, barium and chlorides. If a landfill receives a radiation detection in excess of the limit set by the DEP, it would have to cease accepting waste until it is inspected.

Beginning in July 2016, landfills would no longer be able to accept unlimited quantities of fracking waste, and would have to abide by the previously-mandated total garbage caps – either 10,000 or 30,000 tons a month, depending on the size of the landfill. The landfills would not be allowed to turn away municipal garbage in order to accept more drill cuttings.

The bill requires the DEP to complete a study by Jan. 1 that would examine toxins found in the leachate water that flows out of landfills that accept drill cuttings, the potential impact on water resources and the feasibility of establishing separate mono-fills designed to accept only fracking waste, which would be funded, built and owned by the gas industry.

HB4411 would also add an additional $1 per ton fee for dumping drill cuttings, which would go to pay for the DEP study and repairs to roads damaged by trucks that transport them.

While solid waste authorities – who are charged with regulating landfills on the local level – said the amended version is a major improvement over the original bill, they argue the changes still undermine local control of landfills.

“While these amendments may make the bill somewhat less objectionable, the bill still clearly falls short of meeting the public involvement and local control processes that have made West Virginia’s solid waste laws so effective for the last 20 years,” Hogbin said. “The bill as written still allows for unlimited amounts of Marcellus waste into Class B Landfills until July 1, 2016. This is accomplished without any public hearings, public referendums, local control by solid waste authorities or [Public Service Commission] Certificate of Need approval.”

He said there are concerns that the 2016 deadline will be pushed back in the future. “Quite frankly, there are concerns on the Solid Waste Authority side of things that between now and then the DEP will approach the Legislature and push that day out or make it permanent.”

Public pressure has been effective in combatting the worst aspects of the original bill, Hogbin argued.

“It appears that the citizen pressure and solid waste authority involvement has caused some tonnage caps language and environmental studies to be inserted in the bill,” he said, adding he encourages citizens to continue contacting their legislators about the issue.[/cleeng_content]

 

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