As loyal followers of our blog may be aware, we cover issues relating to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” from all angles. One recent topic we have addressed is the current “moratorium” on fracking in New York. The saga in New York continues with no end in sight. Now, lawmakers in neighboring Massachusetts are considering a “moratorium” of their own. And it is significant, banning the drilling technique for no less than a decade. The Bill, H. 3796, is available here.
The Bill is titled “An Act to protect our drinking water from hydraulic fracturing” and was sponsored by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. Just before Thanksgiving, the Bill reported favorably by committee and was referred to the committee on House Ways and Means. Under the bill, “For the period beginning January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2024, no person may engage in hydraulic fracturing in the commonwealth.” And, during that same time period, “no person may collect, store, treat, or dispose of wastewater hydraulic fracturing fluid, wastewater solids, drill cuttings or other byproducts from hydraulic fracturing within the commonwealth.” The bill defines “hydraulic fracturing” as “the process of pumping a fluid into or under the surface of the ground in order to create fractures in rock for the purpose of the production or recovery of oil or gas.”
Apart from the proposed length of the ban, the bill is noteworthy in that Massachusetts isn’t viewed as a rich potential source of natural gas other than perhaps some limited deposits in the western portion of the commonwealth. In this respect, the bill is a bit reminiscent of the Vermont legislature’s passage of a ban on hydraulic fracturing, despite the fact that the state has little or no natural gas reserves. Or even one borough in New Jersey, Highland Park, that banned fracking in the municipality, even though there was virtually no possibility of fracking ever occurring there as it is far from any major sources of natural gas.
Whether it is more “for show” or not, the Bill’s eventual fate in Massachusetts could be significant as more States continue to address fracking. We will, of course, continue to monitor developments and report on them.