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Ridgefield fracking ban heads to hearing then vote

January 4, 2019

The town’s nearly year-long debate over a ban against “fracking” — hydraulic fracturing — and the reuse of wastes from the fracking process, which is used in oil and gas extraction, will likely come to a conclusion in the next week.

A proposed anti-fracking ordinance petitioned for by more than 600 environmentally concerned citizens will go to a public hearing at 10 a.m. Saturday and then a town meeting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday — both in town hall.

The proposed ordinance carries fines of up to $250, as well as a requirement to remediate damage and reimburse the town for costs related to violations.

The heart of the proposal being put before townspeople by the Board of Selectmen, at the request of 664 petition signers, is a prohibition on the use or reuse of wastes from natural gas or oil extraction on property in town, disposal of it in wastewater treatment or solid waste processing facilities, as well as a ban on a long list of activities including the sale, acquisition, transfer and handling of such wastes.

Although Ridgefield isn’t considered an area where fracking or other oil or gas extraction activities are likely, the town’s adoption an anti-fracking ordinance was proposed last January by Kristin Quell-Garguilo of RACE, the Ridgefield Action Coalition for the Environment.

The town Conservation Commission voted in January 2018 to support the ordinance proposed by RACE. The ordinance has also been supported by the Norwalk River Watershed Association.

But the selectmen had concerns with some aspects of the proposal, discussing it on and off from January into the fall — even putting forward an alternative version based on wording vetted by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.

In the fall citizens began circulating petitions to bring the original RACE ordinance to town meeting. The petitions needed to be signed by 2 percent of registered Ridgefield voters — 369 of slightly over 18,000 voters.

Michael Garguilo, one of the leaders of the petition effort, wrote a letter urging citizens to sign the petitions.

“…While the process of ‘fracking’ will not occur in Ridgefield, the danger of ‘fracking waste’ coming into our community is real,” he said. “‘Fracking waste’ is chemically unsafe and radioactive in nature. If these waste products are used in our community, such as an additive to road salt, the ecosystems and future generations (our children and their children) will be negatively impacted…”

Garguilo said the draft ordinance he and petitioners put forward “was written by the legal counsel team for Riverkeeper, founded by environmental lawyer Robert F Kennedy, Jr.” and was approved by more than 30 Connecticut towns and cities.

Garguilo said in late December that he expects a crowd in support of the ordinance.

“The meeting will be attended by many people whom are disappointed in the lack of action by the Board of Selectmen on this issue,” Garguilo said. “We feel our health and well-being was not the top priority when it came to fracking waste.”

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