Gas drilling debated, discussed in Norwich June 16, 2011

Gas drilling debated, discussed in Norwich

By: Melissa deCordova, Sun Staff Writer (Evening Sun)
Published: June 17th, 2011

NORWICH – Yesterday afternoon’s meeting of a regional natural gas group to discuss government regulations on road use and pipeline infrastructure went off without a hitch despite a large crowd of anti-gas drilling activists who attended and later proceeded to rally in West Park afterwards.

The approximately 85 attendees at the County Office Building meeting were given a set of guidelines and asked to sit in designated areas for government officials, department directors, regulators, the general public and the press. Following a presentation from four speakers, Chenango County’s economic development consultant within the natural gas industry, Steven Palmatier fielded questions first from municipal leaders and from the public second.

Responding to a question from Adrian Kuzminski, moderator for a network of environmental Otsego County activists, who suggested that the group should be discussing the dangers of hydraulic fracturing and threats to the state’s drinking water supplies, Palmatier said the meeting was “not intended nor ever intended to be a debate of hydraulic fracturing.”

“We are dealing with the regulatory structure for our county to deal with the natural gas industry we have and to prepare for what we could have in the future,” he said.

Coventry resident Kim Michels asked about right-of-way set backs and surface and subsurface rights, particularly as they pertained to a natural gas pipeline company currently seeking a franchise in the towns of Sidney, Bainbridge and Coventry. A planning consultant, Chris Kale, asked about New York Department of Environmental Conservation set back requirements that she said don’t comply with Federal Housing Administration title insurance requirements and is causing problems in the secondary mortgage market.

At the rally, Kuzminski characterized the multi-county meeting as “outrageous” and told the about 40 in attendance, “I hope you don’t let them get away with that.”

“It’s important to work on the federal level, important to work on these issues in Albany, but we probably aren’t going to get bailed out by either. The only place to make things happen is on the ground level, through grassroots efforts like this. We have leverage at the local level,” he said.

Other speakers called for a complete ban on high water volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, a 60-year-old energy stimulation technology that uses high-pressure water mixed with chemicals and sand to crack open shale formations.

Town of McDonough Supervisor Arrington Canor, one of eight elected officials who attended the Regional meeting, said not knowing the facts about natural gas drilling is making people afraid.

“We aren’t here to argue. We officials need to know what the rules are and how we can work within them. It’s the only industry that we have that is promising jobs. We’re not hear to argue. We’re here to get the facts,” he said.

One of the meetings speakers, Gregory H. Sovas, of XRM, LLC, said the practice would require very minimal land disturbance. He pointed to the estimated 15,000 to 18,000 jobs that would be generated in the Southern Tier by 2015 if the state allows gas companies to drill into the massive Marcellus Shale formation.

“I get emotional even thinking about the landowner. Who is speaking up for them? I get emotional when others tell landowners what to do with their land,” he said.

The pending natural gas industry is also expected to result in $11.4 billion in economic output by 2020 and $1.4 billion in tax revenues for state and local governments over the next nine years.

The DEC is preparing to release an environmental impact statement in July that would outline new permit guidelines for natural gas exploration using horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracture stimulation.

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