Boston – The state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture has now approved a 10-year moratorium on fracking. The committee’s approval of H.788, introduced by Reps. Peter Kocot and Denise Provost, came after Environment Massachusetts and its allies presented the committee with documented cases of water contamination, illness, and other damage from fracking operations elsewhere, as well as petitions from more than 11,700 Bay State residents calling on Beacon Hill to bar the dirty drilling process in the Commonwealth.
“From Pennsylvania to Colorado, fracking has contaminated water, threatened residents’ health, and turned rural landscapes into industrial zones,” said Ben Hellerstein, field associate for Environment Massachusetts. “Thanks to the leadership of Chairs Anne Gobi and Mark Pacheco, we are now one step closer to protecting the Pioneer Valley from dirty drilling.”
Concern over fracking in the Bay State has been growing since last year, when an industry-affiliated organization met with landowners in Western Massachusetts to discuss the prospects for fracking there. Moreover, as New York mulls over large-scale fracking next door, drilling operators could soon view Western Massachusetts as a convenient dumping ground for toxic fracking wastewater.
"All you have to do is look at the overlap of shale and water resources in the Pioneer Valley, and you know we cannot allow fracking—or its toxic waste—to come to Massachusetts," said Rep. Denise Provost (D-Somerville), sponsor of H.788.
Rep. Peter V. Kocot (D-Northampton) added, "Our state government must do everything it can to protect our drinking water supplies. This bill will help to ensure that the health and prosperity of our communities is maintained."
The bill (assigned a new number, H.3796, after being approved by the committee) would protect the Commonwealth from both of these threats by barring fracking and its wastewater, for at least a decade. Vermont has already enacted a similar law, and Environment Massachusetts’ sister organizations are working to stop fracking and its toxic waste in nearly a dozen states—including Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and elsewhere.
"Our drinking water is invaluable and irreplaceable," said Mayor Michael Tautznik of Easthampton, Ma. "Gambling our water against the toxic pollution of this dirty drilling is a loser's proposition."
Laced with cancer-causing and even radioactive materials, fracking wastewater has contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico. For Western Massachusetts, such threats are heightened by the fact that many communities in the Pioneer Valley rely on groundwater as their sole source of drinking water.
In addition to contaminating drinking water, fracking and its toxic waste poses myriad other threat to the environment and public health—including air pollution, land degradation, and global warming pollution—as documented in Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center’s recent Fracking by the Numbers report.
The bill to stop fracking still has several hurdles to clear before it reaches Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk—most notably, the vociferous opposition of the oil and gas industry.
Hellerstein says the most important thing is for the public to get the facts about fracking. His group awaits next week’s release of a mini-documentary by Martin Sheen’s Breakthroughs program to public television stations, featuring the group’s senior attorney John Rumpler.
“The more the public learns about fracking, the more they want to stop it,” said Hellerstein. “And today, Bay State legislators acted to protect the public from this dirty drilling.”
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Environment Massachusetts is a statewide, citizen-based environmental non-profit organization working toward a cleaner, greener, healthier future. www.environmentmassachusetts.org