Pro-gas coalition requests county’s backing

NORWICH – An advisory committee on natural gas development in Chenango County took no action Tuesday on a request to officially endorse the findings of New York’s updated permitting rules and to discourage municipal moratoriums on drilling from superceding them.

Armed with a map showing that the majority of the county’s landowners are in favor of responsible gas development, Central New York Landowners Coalition President Brian Conover asked for the committee to support its members.

“The overwhelming majority of this county is in the coalition or leased. Our responsibility is to our landowners. We should be at the forefront of this train rather than its caboose,” he said, referring to the permitting process once it begins.

Environmental regulators have been compiling and composing safe drilling procedures since 2008 when concerns were raised about high-volume hydraulic fracturing, the method which made it economically feasible to extract oil and gas from the Marcellus Shale. Fracking, as it’s called, unlocks trapped gas by injecting a well with millions of gallons of highly pressurized water mixed with a solution of soap, sand and chemicals that some worry has the potential to contaminate drinking water.

“I would rather do so after the SGEIS is finished,” Chenango County Natural Gas Advisory Committee Chairman Peter C. Flanagan, D-Preston, said, referring to the 900-page document that is anticipated sometime this year.

The committee serves in an advisory role for the county and can recommend resolutions. Instead of backing the coalition’s request, Flanagan suggested the proposed resolution be distributed to the county’s 23 town and City of Norwich supervisors for their individual consideration. He said he would inform the county board and take the resolution to his own town board.

There are no official bans on drilling in Chenango County, but several townships are considering joining a long list of New York municipalities that have taken Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens at his word when he said in April that communities identified as anti-drilling wouldn’t be subject to the gas-extraction process. The nearby towns of Butternuts and Middlefield in Otsego County and Dryden in Tompkins County have imposed bans, the latter being in the midst of defending their actions in the courts against law suits filed by gas and oil companies and landowners.

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