Cherry Valley looks to ban fracking

Source: Daily Star, The (Oneonta, NY), March 22, 2011
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Like Middlefield, Springfield and Otsego, the town of Cherry Valley is moving to ban drilling and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas within its borders.

The town’s zoning commission will hold a public hearing Monday on a draft land-use law that prohibits new drilling and fracking operations and other new “heavy industry.”

A copy of that proposed law, available at http://cherryvalleyny.us/pdfs/LandUseDraft, states in part:

“New ‘heavy industry’ uses, as defined elsewhere in this law, shall be prohibited in the town of Cherry Valley beginning on the effective date of this local law. The definition of ‘heavy industry’ in this law includes the exploration for natural gas, extraction of natural gas, natural gas processing facilities, exploration for crude oil, extraction of crude oil, oil refineries, coal mining, and coal processing … “

Under the heading of “existing leases,” the proposed law states: “Where a lease which allows gas, oil or coal extraction has been executed and where no substantive gas, oil or coal extraction activity has substantively commenced as of the effective date of this local law, then this local law shall apply in full effect and shall operate to prohibit all such activities.

“The existence of a lease under the circumstances described in this paragraph shall convey no vested right upon either party to the lease.”

Where gas wells are active, “the activity shall be considered a non-conforming use and shall be allowed to continue,” the draft law states. But if the operations cease for more than a year, “the non-conforming use status of that activity shall terminate and the activity may not be reviewed.

“Further, no gas, oil or coal extraction activity allowed to remain in operation pursuant to this provision shall be permitted to expand after the effective date of this local law.”

Gastem USA, which controls leases on more than 30,000 acres in Otsego County, has one active well in the town, on Irish Hill Road. Firm President Orville Cole lives in Cherry Valley and has faced strong criticism at recent meetings in the northern part of the county.

Asked Wednesday if he expected this kind of reception — towns trying to ban his firm from drilling and fracking — Cole said: “I honestly did not anticipate this because the opportunity to provide a positive local gas use exists.

“For instance, in Cooperstown, that the board of education and hospital would want gas seemed like a natural thought process.”

When asked what he plans to do as towns move to ban his operations, Cole said he will continue to go to meetings.

“I think people here are educated, but they need information about what is proposed,” he said.

Town consultant Nan Stolzenberg said the draft law is “an effort to implement the town’s comprehensive plan,” by spelling out the rules needed to maintain the town’s environment and rural character.

Lynn Marsh, a member of the environmental group Cherry Valley Advocates, said town residents fear the consequences of hydraulic fracturing in horizontal wells — the process of injecting gas wells with millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals to increase production.

Clarksville lawyer Peter Henner, who represents the Advocates, said the group is working on additional measures to minimize threats to the environment in Cherry Valley and may announce them soon.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Community Center.

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