By Fred Stabbert III
HORTONVILLE Democracy in action.
That’s what the Delaware Town Board saw Wednesday night as nearly 40 residents from across the township and beyond showed up to have their voices heard about natural gas drilling in New York.
A request by Town of Delaware resident Roy Tedoff to have the town board throw its support behind two proposed state bills was tabled following nearly an hour of debate by town board members and the public.
The purpose of the bills, according to Tedoff, was to clarify “that current local zoning law, and local zoning laws enacted in the future, will dictate where oil, gas and solution mining is a permissible use, even with a regulatory program at the state level.”
The bills were co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and New York Senator John Bonacic.
Planning Board Chairman Gerald Euker said, “If the town board did support [the bills] it would be wavering from its neutral position [on gas drilling].”
Elizabeth Bucar said, “Bonacic and Gunther both agree that local municipalities have the right to determine quality of local life.”
Bucar said the bills underscored the need for local control over quality of life issues.
But Noel Van Swol, who heads a large landowners’ group in support of gas drilling, said, “What I’m afraid of and many property owners in our association is a hodgepodge of regulations which may or may not agree with the state.
“This is just another attempt to obstruct oil and gas drilling,” he said.
Currently a moratorium on natural gas drilling in New York State is in place while the New York State Department of Environmental Protection (DEC) put the finishing touches on its regulations.
But Zeke Boyle said his concern was with environmental issues.
“It’s all about the water,” Boyle said. “Water travels. And there are accidents all over the country. Where is the water going?
“There are 300 known chemicals in it,” he warned. “My family’s been here since 1840 and I’m passionate about water.”
On Wednesday, an accident by Chesapeake Energy, spilled thousands of gallons of hydraulic fracking drilling fluid at a well in Leroy Township in western Pa. Tests of the water revealed no adverse affects on aquatic life as yet, officials said, although nearby residents did need to be evacuated until spill could be redirected.
Local farmer Bill Graby said the drilling companies were taking every precaution to insure safety, even in the face of accidents.
“Accidents will happen,” he said. “But the economic benefits far outweigh the problems.”
Kohlertown resident Mike Schwartz said, “We’re jumping the gun. The DEC hasn’t even come out with the regulations yet.
“We have the toughest environmental department in the country and I have a lot of faith in them,” Schwartz said. “Secondly, we need economic development. What do [our children] have to come back to? Nothing.”
Paul Hindes, who has been at the forefront of a road use agreement which would help insure gas companies leave the roads in the shape they found them, had another idea.
“I would feel better about drilling if people put aside a portion of the money [received from leasing] so people affected could be compensated in a serious way,” he said. “It could be part of the lease, if you are serious.”
Bethel farmer and former Bethel Supervisor Harold Russell said, “There’s not a soul who wants polluted water.”
Russell said strong leases, holding the gas companies accountable, were a must.