Dan Hust | Democrat
SULLIVAN COUNTY PLANNING Commissioner William Pammer, at left, presented the findings of the Sullivan County Gas Drilling Task Force to legislators last Thursday.
Drilling Task Force makes report
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Sullivan County Planning Commissioner Bill Pammer presented the findings of the Sullivan County Gas Drilling Task Force to legislators Thursday.
Along with the 84-page report came 21 recommendations that legislators will consider and possibly act on at the next Planning, Environmental Management and Real Property Committee meeting, currently scheduled for Thursday, March 12 at 9:15 a.m. in the Government Center in Monticello. The meeting is open to the public.
Formed by the county last year in the wake of renewed interest in the natural gas prospects within the Marcellus Shale underlying the area, the task force consists of Pammer, County Manager David Fanslau, Public Works Commissioner Bob Meyer, Public Safety Commissioner Dick Martinkovic, County Attorney Sam Yasgur, County Treasurer Ira Cohen and Real Property Tax Director Lynda Levine.
Assisting them are Chief County Planner Ethan Cohen and Deputy Public Works Commissioner Ed McAndrew.
Their findings, culled from numerous interviews and research with local, state and out-of-state officials and agencies, were both positive and negative.
On the positive side, for example, they found no complaints from emergency services agencies working with gas companies in western New York State, where the industry has been active for the past century.
On the negative side, for example, they discovered that many municipalities haven’t required bond amounts sufficient to cover damage to roadways inflicted by the heavy truck traffic resulting from gas drilling.
The full report is expected to be made available soon on the county’s website at www.scgnet.us. For copies, contact the Division of Planning at 807-0527.
Next up for the task force, said Pammer, is working closely with the townships along the Delaware River to create a more specific assessment of impacts and mitigations regarding gas drilling.
The report recommends:
• Continuing to monitor and address all issues with gas development, both in terms of economic opportunities and potential impacts
• Continuing to follow and participate in the state’s update of gas drilling regulations
• Responding promptly to the state’s updates and fostering public education and participation
• Helping local municipalities establish a disciplined road regime system to ensure gas drilling activities do not result in excess costs to taxpayers
• Exploring potential laws that ensure the same for county roads, including designating truck routes, computing the mileage and costs-per-mile of those routes, and creating a uniform method of assessing such costs
• Urging the state to create a methodology to concretely quantify the costs to maintain roadways so as to eliminate the guesswork and ad hoc negotiations between municipalities and gas companies over estimating damages and setting bonding requirements
• Conveying to the state the need to create mechanisms to notify municipalities of drilling permit applications and to require gas companies to notify municipalities of permit approvals
• Reviewing the issues surrounding property rights and the potential nuisance related to seismic (i.e., thumper truck) testing and considering the parameters for drafting an ordinance that regulates such testing on county roads
• Requiring driveway permit applications for the well pad(s) include a site plan as a pre-requisite (a 911 address will be issued as part of any driveway permit)
• Obtaining a list of telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of management contacts for each well site, especially in cases of emergency
• Interfacing with the NY-Alert online warning system and encouraging the public to use it to ensure timely and thorough notification of chemical spills or contamination incidents
• Ensuring review by emergency responders of storage and transportation methods regarding wastewater and fracking fluids, along with the use of blow-out preventers, flow lines and flaring procedures on wells
• Mandating that emergency responders and local emergency rooms be given the exact contents of fracking fluids to ensure proper treatment in contamination situations
• Working with the state to remove ambiguity in state law regarding the scope of local municipal authority as it pertains to gas drilling
• Reviewing and adopting proper cost-recovery measures (i.e., changing the way well sites can be taxed) so that revenue generation is maximized and taxpayers aren’t unduly burdened
• Urging the state to amend the Real Property Tax Law to give municipalities a clearer enforcement authority when gas companies do not pay their property taxes in a timely or proper manner.
(Several recommendations have been consolidated in this article; thus the number of bulleted points will not add up to the report’s total of 21 recommendations.)