Dec 17, 2010 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
The Otisco Town Board passed a local six-monthmoratorium on hydraulic fracturing at its Dec. 13 meeting, making Otisco the fourth out of five towns on the Lake Otisco Watershed to do so.
The Otisco Lake Preservation Association approached all five towns requesting moratoriums. Otisco, Marcellus, Tully and Onondaga town boards passed resolutions, while Spafford did not.
The town of Otisco moratorium was passed on the heels of Governor David Paterson’s executive order to prohibit horizontal hydraulic fracturing until July 1, 2011.
“The governor had passed one earlier in the day, so this was more or less symbolic,” Otisco Town Supervisor Wayne Amato told the Observer.
The town board is not staunchly opposed to the drilling procedure – rather, it wants make sure any local drilling does not hurt the pristine, rural nature of the town, Amato said.
Amato noted a consensus among residents for Otisco not to become highly developed.
“It’s with caution that we proceed on any of these endeavors,” he said.
Some town governments have expressed interest in researching ways to prevent drilling locally, such as regulating the roads or taxing the gas. Amato sees this as a waste of taxpayer dollars.
“A lot of what happens may be made irrelevant by what [the DEC and EPA’s] actions are,” he said, adding that taxpayers’ money is “too valuable to waste on suppositions.”
Don Siegel, a Syracuse University professor and veteran hydrogeologist who spoke to guests before the moratorium was passed, said if drilling did take place, it would only affect the area for about a year.
Gas and oil companies have secured about 170 leases on privately own land in Otisco. Still, Siegel doesn’t expect hydraulic fracturing, often referred to as hydrofracking, to come to the town anytime soon, considering that the Marcellus Shale gas quality here is not as good as in places closer to the Pennsylvania border.
“[Gas and oil companies] may lease, but I have a hard time thinking that they’re going go drill it in the near future,” he said. “The real pay zone is much, much closer to Pennsylvania.”
Williams agreed with Amato that the moratorium was symbolic. She stressed the importance of protecting the water of Otisco Lake that so many rely on.
“Towns in our watershed have taken a strong stand for all of us. They are saying, slow down, let’s make sure if drilling is done, it is done safely and with the utmost respect for the environment and the safety of those we serve,” Williams said
Siegel insists that hydrofracking does not pose a serious threat to surrounding water supplies.
“The reason for the moratorium shouldn’t be related to fear of drinking water supplies being compromised in any fashion,” Siegel said. “If they have any concerns it should be how they’re going to handle perhaps some of the social issues.”
Siegel attribute advocates against hydrofracking for bringing attention to the few instances where hydrofracking has failed – such as in Dimock, Penn., where in September 2009 an 8,000-gallon leak of hydrofacking fluids escaped into a fresh water stream. The Department of Environmental Protection attributed the failure to faulty well construction.
Siegel said hydrofracking has gone through the necessary growing pains.
“And the adversarial groups against hydrofracking have effectively gotten the gas industry to really pay attention to their practices, so when it’s being done now it’s being done more profoundly and environmentally safe compared to what it was done a couple years ago.”
Siegel said groups like OLPA have also contributed to strong environmental safeguards in New York State.
“But many of those safeguards will be unnecessary – way over the top,” he said.
Amato highlighted some of the town of Otisco’s concerns related to hydrofracking, including any increases in industry that would cause taxes to increase.
“Suppose there’s a lot of heavy duty truck traffic and it could affect the road systems. Our highway department could wind up having to do a lot of work fixing roads,” he said.
Amato added that funding of the highway department makes up a good portion of the town’s budget.
“If things increase there it could be significant,” he said.