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Fred Stabbert III | Democrat

Sullivan County Planning Commissioner Luiz Aragon addresses members of the Partnership for Economic Development at the Chapin Estates on Tuesday. Aragon has been holding meetings in order to set up future forums to discuss the wide range of issues associated with potential gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

Gas drilling forums eyed

By Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY — May 7, 2010 — The county is preparing to host a trio of public info sessions this summer on natural gas drilling.
Planning Commissioner Luiz Aragon told the Democrat this week that possibly in July and/or August, three forums will be held: one on the economic impacts of drilling, one on the health and environmental impacts, and one on how to organize property owners and negotiate leases.
“It’s important… to talk about it neutrally, to talk about the facts,” Aragon remarked.
He lamented that many meetings of late have been dominated by one side or another.
“And you’re not able to attract the full audience for that,” Aragon said. “It’s very hard to put everybody together.”
So he and Chief Planner Ethan Cohen have given the idea a test run via the very group that’s charged with creating these forums.
“We’ve had two meetings trying to decide who the speakers and panels should be,” said Aragon.
“We” currently includes Bruce Ferguson of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, Denise Frangipane of Sullivan Renaissance, consultant and former Cornell Cooperative Extension Executive Director Gerry Skoda, Legislator Kathy LaBuda, Larysa Dyrszka of Sullivan Area Citizens for Responsible Energy Development (SACRED), River Reporter Publisher Laurie Stuart, blogger and local activist Liz Bucar, Paul Hindes of the Multi-Municipal Gas Drilling Task Force, Tusten Supervisor Peg Harrison, Partnership for Economic Development President Tim McCausland, private planner Tom Shepstone, and Catskill Mountainkeeper Program Director Wes Gillingham.
“They’ve been very engaged,” said Aragon, “and [there’s been] no blood.”
Calling it an outgrowth of the recent countywide charrette, he explained that the forums will “have all sides” represented through a variety of speakers from across the country.
“As a group, we’ve been deciding who are really good people to come and talk to us, so it’s a balanced discussion,” he detailed. “We want to hear from people in the real world, who have really experienced it [gas drilling].”
The exact venue and dates have not been nailed down, and Aragon said more meetings of the group – beginning with one on May 14 – will be needed first.
Additional topics for future forums may also be in the pipeline.
“Depending on how this goes,” said Aragon, “we’ll have more.”

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