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Fracking rallies target Senate GOP in session's waning days

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Daniel Robison
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WNED
Anti-fracking activists are focusing their efforts on persuading Senate Republicans to support two bills that would curtail fracking and its by-products. A rally in Buffalo (above) was also a "thank you" to a local senator for his support.

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In the waning days of the legislative session, anti-hydrofracking activists are aggressively lobbying for the passage of a few bills.

The offices of western New York Senate Republicans were the focus of a handful of rallies Monday. Protestors hope the these politicians are fence-sitting on the issue and can be tipped to their side.

Two bills, not much time

One bill would extend a moratorium on the controversial natural gas drilling technique for a year, which has passed the Assembly but not the Senate. The drilling industry considers the measure superfluous, as the Department of Environmental Conservation cannot issue permits for horizontal wells anyway.

Some consider the bill a public relations move.

The other bill, which has the public support of few Republican Senators, one being local Mark Grisanti, would label fluid used in the fracking process as hazardous waste, thereby subjecting it to more regulation.

Monday’s rally off Niagara Square in downtown Buffalo was actually a two-for-one: an anti-fracking protest and a “thank you” to Grisanti, who has surprised some by co-sponsoring the hazardous waste bill, which is stalled in the State Senate with only days to go before recess.

“It should be adopted. Many bills are adopted in the last two weeks of the session,” says Bob Ciesielski with the Sierra Club.

The state’s current method of dealing with the mixture of water, sand, chemicals and heavy metals is to brand it as “industrial waste. ” That allows municipal sewage treatment plants to attempt to successfully treat the fluid.

“Hazardous waste” bill could bring fracking fluid to WNY

If the waste bill passes, western New Yorkers may find issues with the indirect results. Two local treatment plants in North Tonawanda and Niagara Falls could become heavy recipients of fracking fluid as they’re equipped to handle that which is labeled “hazardous.”

“The problem is that’s two treatment plants in the state. I think there’s only one more that has that capability. So even though Senator [George] Maziarz is inviting this waste up to Niagara Falls, I don’t think there’s the capacity to handle it,” Ciesielski says.

No rally was held in front of Maziarz’s office because he’s considered to have made up his mind in support of fracking and the local disposal of its waste. In fact, Maziarz met with Ciesielski last week and told his group as much.

The veteran GOP senator has argued that treating fracking fluid properly through these two facilities could bring jobs to the area.

Perhaps the rally with the best ability to influence the issue was held at Republican Patrick Gallivan’s office.

“[Senator Patrick] Gallivan has been very receptive to personally meeting with his constituents about meeting with this issue. But he hasn’t been ready to come out and take a stand on it,” says activist Sarah Buckley.

Buckley says she has high hopes for the bills. After all, a few months ago she and a few dozen others successfully persuaded the Buffalo City Council to unanimously ban fracking and the treatment of its waste.

WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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