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Madison County gas well informational meeting draws over 40

About 40 attended a gas well informational meeting on May 5 at the Hamilton Public Library in reaction to new natural gas wells popping up around the county.

Mike Bernhard and Mary Jo Long, of Afton in Chenango County, showed a short film entitled "Rural Impact" and hosted a discussion of issues including compulsory integration, what to be aware of when signing leases and the environmental impacts of gas well drilling.

"Rural Impact" is a 2007 film that addresses the impacts of gas drilling in rural Colorado including harmful chemical effects, pollution and an increase in population that pushed local infrastructure and governments to capacity.

Long and Bernhard expressed concerned about a minimum of regulation or control by government over the gas companies.

"Since the federal government has said we're taking a pass on this, then the burden or the responsibility is falling to state and local government," Long said. "As a person on my town board, when I saw this film the first time, I was concerned because, at least in the town of Afton, our roads budget is two thirds of our budget."

Long said that while Nornew, a company that owns gas rigs throughout the region, has commited to road repairs in Lebanon, "I never want to rely on the kindness of a corporation because they have a bottom line and they can sell these leases."

Long was concerned about the leeway granted to corporations by the government.

"In my opinion, the laws as they currently exist really facilitate and encourage this kind of energy extraction development," she said.

Long said that Lebanon town supervisor Jim Goldstein could be the most active town supervisor in these issues in the whole state. Goldstein recently sent a letter to Assemblyman Bill Magee and State Senator Dave Valesky expressing concerns with possible gas rig taxes going to state rather than local government.

"We want to see local revenues for natural gas production remain local and that the system is long overdue for a review and change," Goldstein said.

The concerns put forth by Goldstein, Long, Bernhard and several community members at the May 5 informational meeting portrayed a complicated, multi-faceted problem with no clear answer.

"We don't have the solution," said Long. "I wish we did, but we do think that by getting the word out to people and by working together and brainstorming and connecting that we will begin to push back."

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