OPINION / COMMENTARY
Buffalo Bans Fracking in Groundbreaking Vote
First Ban on Fracking in New York; Legislation Also Targets Wastewater
Citizens and clean water advocates heralded the Buffalo Common Council’s move to become the first city in New York State—and the second major city nationwide—to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. The Common Council passed “Buffalo's Community Protection from Natural Gas Extraction Ordinance” today by a 9-0 vote, following months of citizen lobbying by Frack Action Buffalo, a local grassroots group.
At a a press conference following the vote, victims of fracking in New York joined Buffalo Common Coucilmembers and former New York State Senator Antoine Thompson in praising the ban. Thompson was the sponsor of the statewide moratorium on fracking passed in August.
Buffalo, which sits atop areas of the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations, follows in the footsteps of Pittsburgh, PA, which passed a similar ban in November 2010. The Buffalo law prohibits drillers from fracking for gas in Buffalo, and also bars the disposal of drilling wastewater or other production wastes within city limits.
The inclusion of drilling wastes sets the Buffalo legislation apart from Pittsburgh's, and zeroes in on what has proved a contentious issue for the gas industry in Pennsylvania: what to do with the millions of gallons of wastewater generated by the process, which can contain carcinogens, volatile organic compounds, and even radioactive material. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection came under fire last month when the Associated Press reported that the DEP authorized the discharge of at least 3.6 million barrels of fracking wastewater into rivers and streams across the state with minimal to no treatment. According to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation documents, wastewater from vertical fracking wells in New York has already been accepted by Buffalo water treatment facilities.