On this West Virginia Morning, many schools in rural areas of West Virginia have closed – leaving vacant buildings. When a community in eastern Boone County lost its elementary school, it became a community center. Briana Heaney has the story.
Listen: Voices From Frack Waste Hearing Tell A Story
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The House Judiciary Committee heard thoughts and concerns during a public hearing over a piece of pending legislation: HB4411 – allowing the disposal of drill cuttings and associated drilling waste generated from fracking sites in commercial solid waste facilities.
Norm Steenstra who represents WV Citizen Action Group spoke about lobbying for the legislation two decades ago that put current solid waste law in place.
Silas Taylor, retired lawyer who worked for years in the Office of the Attorney General, remembers past struggles to secure solid waste laws that gave communities oversight of waste practices in their midst.
Some Recent History:
Julie Archer representing the WV Surface Owners Rights Organization points out the reason for the change in waste policy which came came as a result of the The Horizontal Well Control Act of 2011. Former operator practices were dumping and burying it on site.
Bill Hughes of the Wetzel County Solid Waste Authority, an outspoken opponent of current fracking solid waste practices, talks about the 300 percent increase of largely uncharacterized waste his landfill has seen.
A resounding sentiment at the hearing was the concern with cutting local solid waste authorities out of the decision-making process in individual counties. Dawn Darling lives in Morgan County—a county that hasn’t seen fracking activity but where landfills could accept the waste nonetheless.
Under the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste is differentiated from industrial solid waste based on tests that determine chemical properties. Interestingly, federal laws exempt drilling waste from regulation as hazardous waste—a point not lost on many of the speakers at the hearing, including Yuri Gorby, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who hails from Bethany, WV.
A single advocate rose in support of the bill and was the last to speak: Charlie Burd, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association. He said commercial landfills in the state have some of the strongest and most comprehensive regulations in the country and as such, they are adequate for the disposal of fracking wastes.
“I mean you can see from the end of the proposed destruction over there, of the mountain top removal, you can see that mountain range from my house,” Severn said. “I’m not interested in looking out my window and seeing a strip mine.”