DeWitt extends hydrofracking moratorium

The DeWitt Town Board approved a six-month extension to a moratorium on hydrofracking, a controversial process for drilling for natural gas, at its May 23 meeting. The resolution was enacted following a public hearing, and will remain in place until November. The board initially passed a one-year moratorium on hyrdrofracking in March 2010.

Municipalities can not restrict oil and gas exploration, said Supervisor Ed Michalenko, however, they can control and regulate areas that have to do with water consumption and road use. The moratorium will allow the board time to continue to study its options.

"We've spent a good time accumulating information," Michalenko said. "I've got a considerable file from both sides, proponents and opponents. We're concerned with the overall and long-term impact," of issues associated with the process such as potential water contamination and town infrastructure.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as hydrofracking, involves injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure down and across into horizontally drilled wells as far as 10,000 feet below the earth's surface. The pressurized mixture causes the rock layer to crack, releasing natural gas from the shale, which is then drawn up to the surface through the gas well.

"It's not about the decision to support or condemn hydrofracking," Michalenko said. "[The moratorium puts] our decision on hold while we organize a strategy to protect our resources," which he added is difficult to do since there are currently no state or federal regulations on the drilling. "The state and Environmental Protective Agency have not put out guidelines or recommendations or any prohibitions on hydrofracking ... what we want to do is put together a series of local protections that would withstand challenge."

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