Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a largely unregulated drilling process that injects millions of gallons of water, sand, and undisclosed chemicals at high pressure into horizontal wells to crack open shale rock and release natural gas. Fracking has accelerated rapidly in recent years, but it poses a significant threat to groundwater and our environment.
While fracking does not take place in Connecticut, new fracked gas pipelines and power plants have been proposed. Fracked gas plays a significant role in our climate crisis, and its use is a step backwards for efforts to cut carbon emissions or invest in clean energy.
FRACKED GAS PIPELINES
In 2015, the Connecticut General Assembly passed the Pipeline Tax to fund a new fracked gas pipeline proposed to run across Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Under the Pipeline Tax, Connecticut homeowners, ratepayers, and small businesses would be forced to pick up the tab for the big energy companies at a total cost of over $6.6 billion.
This pipeline would do nothing to encourage Connecticut to transition to clean energy, and it would make everyday citizens pay for a pipeline that a 2017 study by Synapse Energy Economics found was ultimately unnecessary. The study found New England's use of natural gas would fall by 41% of 2015 levels by the year 2030 thanks to clean energy requirements, emissions caps, and energy efficiency targets. Massachusetts swiftly took action to halt the pipeline project and prevent its funding on the backs of consumers.
Since 2017, a coalition of lawmakers have introduced legislation to repeal the Pipeline Tax. Most recently in 2019, this effort was spearheaded by Reps. Christopher Rosario and Peter Tercyak. Though the bill failed to advance, attempts were made to incorporate the language into Connecticut's Green Economy Bill (HB 5002) or attach it as an amendment to other energy legislation. Unfortunately, these efforts failed and the Pipeline Tax remains on the books.
Waste from fracking operations contains many dangerous contaminants including:
Chemicals and naturally-occurring elements known to cause organ damage, neurological and developmental problems, birth defects, and other serious health problems
Radioactive isotopes including radium-226 and radium-228
Unknown chemical additives from proprietary, unregulated industry formulas
Though Connecticut has no natural gas deposits, nearby states like Pennsylvania have numerous fracking operations, putting our land at risk for waste disposal. The General Assembly issued a three-year moratorium on fracking waste in 2014, requiring the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to issue regulations by July 2018, but that hasn't yet happened.
In 2019, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a statewide ban on fracking waste. This bill passed largely as a result of significant support from advocates as well as pressure from towns. Over 40 Connecticut towns and municipalities had passed some version of a fracking waste ban, demonstrating the strong grassroots support for this effort.