De Blasio signs Levin bill to ban fracking products

Council member says it will safeguard water supply

September 2, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Stephen Levin (right) congratulates Mayor Bill de Blasio at the bill signing ceremony as environmentalists look on. Photo courtesy of Levin’s office
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In a move hailed by environmentalists, New York has become the first city in the country to ban the use of oil waste products obtained through the controversial process of hydro-fracking.

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law a bill prohibiting the use of oil and natural gas waste products in the city.

The products are often used to de-ice roadways in the winter, officials said.

The bill, which was sponsored by Councilmember Stephen Levin, seeks to protect New York City communities from toxic pollutants while at the same time safeguarding the water.

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Hydro-fracking is a process in which water, sand and chemicals are pumped into rocks to break them apart so that natural gas can be extracted.

The waste associated with hydro-fracking and other natural gas and oil extraction processes often contains radioactive elements like radium, carcinogens such as benzene, and other chemical additives, according to Levin, who said that without adequate protections in place, pollutants could leak into the drinking water.

The mayor signed Levin’s bill on Aug. 31. The new law will go into effect 90 days from that date.

Levin (D-North Brooklyn) said the law breaks new ground in the effort to keep New York environmentally sound.

“This legislation will protect New York City communities from toxic pollutants and ensure cleaner water for generations to come and I hope that other legislative bodies will follow suit. All New Yorkers will benefit from their steadfast commitment to protecting our environment,” Levin said in a statement.

New York state banned the practice of hydro-fracking in 2015, but Levin said byproducts of hydro-fracking are under-regulated and have been used to remove ice on roadways in cities and towns across the state. 

Sean Dixon, the staff attorney for Riverkeeper, the organization that looks after the Hudson River, called the legislation a milestone.

“In the absence of a statewide ban, several New York’s municipalities have stepped up, prohibiting these toxic oil and natural gas wastes in their wastewater treatment plants, water bodies and landfills, and have banned its use to de-ice roads. Now, we applaud the New York City Council for extending these same protections to its 8.5 million residents and their roads, parks, waterways and environment,” Dixon said.

Specifically, the city’s new law will:

  • Prohibit the discharge of any oil or natural gas waste to any surface water bodies located within the city or to any wastewater treatment plant located within the city.

  • Ban the application of any oil or natural gas waste upon any road, property or landfill located within the city.  

  • Require all city contracts for the construction or maintenance of a city road to include a provision stating that no materials containing oil or natural gas waste will be used.

Councilmember Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), chairman of the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee, said Levin’s bill will help ensure public safety. “This type of hazardous substance does not belong in our landfills. This legislation helps us keep our environment clean and maintain our public health,” he said.

In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established a new rule to prevent disposal of wastewater from hydro-fracking at public sewage plants.

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