Towns advised to make the call on gas drilling

NORWICH – An advisory committee on natural gas has for the second time refused to push forward a landowner group’s request that Chenango County endorse the New York State Department of Conservation’s ability to safely harvest natural gas.

The Central New York Landowners Coalition, which is comprised of large swaths of leased land in Chenango County – some of it already producing natural gas – offered up a resolution for the committee’s adoption at the end of last month and again on Tuesday.

CNYLC’s resolution affirms cooperation with the state’s efforts to “safely harvest natural gas and safeguard our vast number of invested landowners from unnecessary delays in permitting due to questioned local sentiment.” The group claims to represent 400,000 acres and about 20 percent of the land in every township.

Riding the wave of pro-drilling sentiment coming out of Albany in the last few weeks, landowners and coalitions in favor of drilling are hoping to rush through local-level legislation to affirm cooperation with the DEC once it completes new permitting rules. DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens recently stated where there is less resistance and less opposition, and no local land-use in place, areas in the Southern Tier (where the Marcellus is deep enough to drill) would be permitted first. Governor Cuomo just last week expressed confidence in the DEC, stating that the nearly four-year review and revised 900-page draft comprehensive plan for safe development of natural gas will be ready to go shortly.

Fearing water contamination, opposition groups have called for a halt to the review and a complete ban on drilling in New York. 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 and other shales formation. 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.

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