SB3562 – Protect Illinois from Radioactive Waste

Check the status of this bill: SB3562

Risk:

  • Horizontal drilling with fracturing for oil, liquid natural gas and natural gas brings up massive amounts of shale debris, flowback water and produced water from underground, which bring with it radioactive elements such as uranium-235 and uranium-238, radium-226, radium-228, bismuth-214, lead-214, actinium-228, thallium-208, and many decay products, including radon gas.  This waste should be classified as TENORM, Technologically-Enhanced, Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Materials, www.epa.gov/radiation/tenorm/, www.epa.gov/radiation/tenorm/oilandgas.html.
  • Horizontal drilling with fracturing exposes both workers and residents to radioactivity via air, water and land pollution, www.epa.gov/radiation/tenorm/oilandgas.html#exposurerisks.
  • Radioactivity (ionizing) is energy given off as either particles or rays from the unstable nucleus of an atom (U.S. EPA, Radiation Protection, Glossary).  There is no level of ionizing radiation which is considered to be safe, or no level at which there is no risk of harm to human health, and even very low doses can cause cancer (National Academy of Sciences “BEIR VII” report, June 9, 2005, the Seventh Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation report on “Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation,” dels.nas.edu/dels/rpt_briefs/beir_vii_final.pdf).
  • Illinois shale contains above average levels of uranium. The USGS has reported that at times, waste from drilling for extraction of oil, liquid natural gas and natural gas in Southern Illinois has radioactive radium levels above 1,000 picoCuries per liter which is 200 times the maximum contamination level of the EPA drinking water standard.
  • Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and is an important environmental radioactive toxin. Radon is inert and is not burned off by flaring, and to release it into the air in large quantities is a very serious occupational and public health concern.
  • The protection of the public health and environment requires a comprehensive set of mandatory state regulations to be in place before fracturing operations start, in order to control and properly confine the radioactive waste (which includes flowback and produced water/ liquids/ matter, as well as all of the mud,  solid waste, and other waste).

Overview:

  • The Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act, (HFRA), does not require most of the fracturing waste to be tested for radioactivity. It calls for the testing of only the flowback water, (first 7-10 days of treatment of a well), and does not mandate testing of the produced water, which is brought up later in the well’s life cycle and has been shown to become more radioactive as the production continues, up to approximately 2-3 months into production, at which time the radioactivity of the produced water levels off and remains more constant. HFRA does not require the fracturing waste to be handled as radioactive waste, forcing the risk of possible harm to be born by workers, residents, and the environment rather than requiring the much cheaper, much smarter solution of requiring fracturing operators to prevent the harm from occurring in the first place.
  • Fracturing has been found to be generating significant levels of radioactive waste in other states. Recently in Pennsylvania, waste water from fracturing operations was allowed to be processed at municipal water treatment plants, after which radioactivity was found being discharged from these plants into rivers and streams. Municipal water treatment plants are not able to remove radioactive elements effectively, www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/radioactive-wastewater-from-fracking-is-found-in-a-pennsylvania-stream-351641/.
  • It is the policy and obligation of the State of Illinois to regulate and control the manufacture, storage, treatment and disposal and reduce the generation of low level radioactive waste in Illinois (The US Central Midwest Interstate Low Level Radioactive Waste Compact Act, www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-103hr4814enr/pdf/BILLS-103hr4814enr.pdf ).
  • It is the policy of the State of Illinois that the protection of residents from the hazards of radioactive material is as important and fundamental a public policy as protecting them from crimes of violence. (Wheeler v. Caterpillar Tractor Co., 108 Ill.2d 502, 511 (Ill. S. Ct. 1985).

Purpose of the Bill: Amends HFRA to help ensure that the public health, safety and welfare and the environment of Illinois is not harmed by the radioactivity generated by horizontal drilling with fracturing operations for extraction of oil, liquid natural gas and natural gas, by requiring all fracturing operations to comply with the Low Level Radioactive Waste Management Act and all other existing applicable laws relating to protection from and control of industry-generated radioactivity.

Specifically it amends HFRA to:

  • Stop the fracturing permitting process until a set of regulations to control radioactivity in fracturing waste are written and in place.
  • Requires testing (paid for by the permit holder) of all fracturing waste (especially both flowback and produced liquids/ matter) in order to determine its levels of radioactivity.
  • Requires all fracturing waste and used materials to be classified and handled as “low level radioactive waste” under the existing Illinois Low Level Radioactive Waste Management Act, unless the testing shows the radioactivity is under the levels set in that statute and regulations promulgated thereunder.
  • Appoints a knowledgeable committee to study the extent and effects of radioactivity in fracturing operations, and to recommend additional regulatory actions to control it and prevent short and long-term harm to workers, residents, and the environment. (This subject area is scientifically and technically complex and is potentially governed by intersecting state and federal law and any new Illinois statute on this subject should not conflict with any existing governing law.)

Solution: Co-sponsor and support SB3562.

One response to “SB3562 – Protect Illinois from Radioactive Waste

  1. Pingback: “The Green Dozen” | Frack Free Illinois

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