Fracking Insider Readers: We are pleased to bring you Volume 34 of our State Regulatory Roundup, including updates in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Utah. As we explained in earlier volumes, we designed the Roundup to provide quick overviews on state regulatory activity. If you have any questions on any of these summaries, please do not hesitate to ask.
Connecticut – The state legislature passed a bill, S.B. 237, on May 7th establishing a three-year moratorium on the processing, storage, and disposal of hydraulic fracturing waste, just minutes before the end of the 2014 legislative session. The bill’s moratorium on the importation of hydraulic fracturing waste goes into effect for a minimum of three years, during which the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) will craft regulations classifying hydraulic fracturing waste to be hazardous, requiring disclosure of chemical ingredients in hydraulic fracturing fluid systems, and determining how to manage naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) that can be brought to the surface in drill cuttings. If signed into law, the bill would further allow the DEEP commissioner to prohibit hydraulic fracturing waste outright if the wastes were determined to create air, land, water, or public health hazards. Though Connecticut does not presently host any hydraulic fracturing operations or drilling waste disposal facilities, the bill’s supporters assert that the legislation is “preemptive action” to prevent waste from being sent to Connecticut. The Senate had previously passed the legislation, and the bill is now awaiting Gov. Dannel Malloy’s signature.
New Jersey – The state Senate approved a bill, S. 1041, on May 12th that would bar the processing and discharge of waste from hydraulic fracturing operations in neighboring states. The bill mirrors a similar measure passed during the last legislative session that was vetoed by Gov. Christie (R), based on concerns that the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from enacting discriminatory laws on interstate commerce. The bill received substantial bipartisan support in a 33-4 vote, perpetuating a conflict between the legislature and the Christie administration. Identical legislation is pending in the state Assembly and is expected to be approved. Gov. Christie is expected to veto the legislation if it reaches his desk, and it is unclear whether the legislature could override a veto.
Utah – An administrative appeal filed by several environmental groups opposing a Forest Service plan that would have opened potions of Fishlake National Forest and Dixie National Forest to oil and gas development was settled by the Forest Service earlier this year. Under the agreement, the Forest Service is expected to prevent oil and gas development in 1.3 million acres of the forests. The agreement will also require additional species protections, such as prohibiting surface occupancy within four miles of greater sage grouse leks. The Forest Service also committed to withdraw four Research Natural Areas from mineral entry, and to prioritize air and water quality protections. The Forest Service had opened the two forests for drilling and hydraulic fracturing in August of 2013, and projected an estimated 73 oil and gas wells drilled and 166 miles of roadway built.