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Town of Marcellus passes six-month hydrofracking moratorium

Following a brief public hearing Monday Sept. 13, the Marcellus town board passed a resolution banning hydrofracking in the town of Marcellus for six months. The board voted unanimously in favor of the resolution, which will give them the opportunity to study the issue and develop further regulations.

Marcellus resident Vincent Murphy was the first to be heard. He spoke in favor of a moratorium; no one spoke in opposition.

"I'd like to see a permanent moratorium," Murphy said, citing the importance of protecting the water supply from damage.

Anita Williams, president of the Otisco Lake Preservation Association, spoke next. The public hearing was being held in response to Williams' request at the August board meeting.

"I agree with this gentleman; I would love to see it totally banned," Williams said. She referenced a statement made by EPA administrator Lisa Johnson, who noted natural gas as an important part of our energy's future and added that the extraction of it must not come at the expense of safe water and our health.

"I think that's basically what we're looking at our health and the health of other generations," Williams said.

Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Jim Rhinehart was also in attendance. He mentioned the county's action in banning hydrofracking on county property until further notice, noting that they did not impose a moratorium.

"I know there's been a lot of questions regarding moratoriums because the DEC will ultimately decide when and if they're going to issue any permits for hydrofracking in New York State," Rhinehart said. "I've been told by our director here in this region that they won't issue any permits in the Otisco Lake or Skaneateles Lake watersheds. For whatever that's worth, I know that's their intent."

Supervisor Dan Ross acknowledged that banning hydrofracking locally could be more complicated than it might sound, citing the potential for tough legal battles down the road.

"We may have difficulty controlling or overriding a DEC permit for hydrofracking, but we might have a stronger case regulating traffic on roads (and/or) storage of material above ground," Ross said.

"If we pass the moratorium, those are things that we can look into during the six-month period."

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