Sullivan County Democrat
Callicoon, New York
January 22, 2010 Issue
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New rules on
gas drilling?

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — Gas drilling issues dominated Thursday’s Planning Committee meeting of the County Legislature.
Planning Commissioner Bill Pammer asked and got legislators to approve a resolution recommending the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) prohibit extracting gas in 100-year and 500-year floodplains.
“This recommendation is made for the purpose of protecting life and property within these areas and… safeguarding the health of the river basin and of the communities who use it from adverse environmental effects on water resources resulting from this activity,” read the resolution.
“We’re talking about a very, very small land area,” Pammer said – mostly around the Delaware River and its major tributaries.
He passed around a list of some of the affected towns. Delaware and Callicoon had the least amount of floodplain areas (two percent), while Lumberland had the most (8.6 percent).
Another resolution, again approved unanimously by committee members, requested the State Legislature to authorize local governments to demand financial security and indemnification pertaining to road damage from trucks hauling materials to and from drill sites.
Though the state already gives local governments latitude in determining such payments, they have been challenged in court.
Plus, this resolution asks the state to clarify that such requirements do not constitute “impact” fees, leaving room for municipalities to charge that separately (as is the case with the proposed Indian casinos).
And, of course, the county sent another resolution to the state asking it to give local governments the same oversight they normally have with any other kind of development within their borders. Currently, municipalities only have control over local roads and taxes.
However, Pammer may have found a way for the county to at least get a glimpse of the site plan – through the requirement that each wellpad have a 911 address for emergency response procedures.
Driveways on county roads require permits from the county, and while the county can’t demand alterations to the site plan, it can require the plan’s submission to gain the permit.
Legislator Leni Binder said she’d favor such a requirement as long as it didn’t present “an undue burden of expense” on the applicant, which Pammer promised it would not.
In fact, Division of Public Works Commissioner Bob Meyer said it would only be a “step above” the sketch already required for a permit.
Pammer said he’d research the issue more before presenting it to legislators for a vote.
Also being researched is the development of a local law to prohibit seismic testing on county roads.
“Thumper trucks,” as they are known, have visited the county before, searching for solid and liquid minerals underneath the ground by sending sound vibrations through the soil and rock.
The concern of the county, however, isn’t so much the noise but the extraction of data from below private property, as the seismic tests measure information gathered from an area larger than just underneath the truck itself.
Legislator Ron Hiatt was the only one hesitant to endorse such a law, but Pammer said he’d do more investigating before bringing it back to the Legislature – including getting townships to sign on to such an initiative to ensure town roads are treated in the same manner as county routes.

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