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Town of Rochester, NY, Weighing Gas Extraction Ban

Officials in the Town -- not the City -- of Rochester, NY, are considering a ban on natural gas extraction.

Supervisor Carl Chipman told NGI's Shale Daily that his community, located in Ulster County at the edge of the Marcellus Shale, will hold a public hearing on Local Law No. 2 on Thursday. He said the law was designed to, in effect, prevent hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

"There's too many unanswered questions at this time on [fracking]," Chipman said Tuesday. "We have to take a look at the impacts on it."

Chipman said the town -- which is a different place than the city of Rochester, one of the largest is the state in terms of area, has 122 miles of roads and predicted that heavy truck traffic from development "would tear up the roads like you wouldn't believe."

"Also, keep in mind that 40% of our residents are second homeowners. They come here for peace, quiet and tranquility. We're a residential, agrarian town with farms and no heavy industry. In fact, our No. 1 industry in the private sector is resorts. So it's totally against what we have for a comprehensive plan in the first place, and we just had that redone five years ago."

Because it covers land use, Chipman said Local Law No. 2 would need approval from the Ulster County Planning Board before being enacted by the town board. He predicted that both bodies would ultimately approve the measure by July.

Much of the western side of the town limits is covered by Catskills State Park. On the eastern side, portions of Minnewaska State Park Preserve and the Mohonk Preserve are also within the town limits.

"A lot of towns in Ulster County are talking about bans [on fracking], and they don't even have Marcellus Shale," Chipman said. "But they're also in the Catskills Watershed. For us, only a very small portion in the northwestern part of our town is in the watershed. So we're not really protected by anything, and that's one reason why we're doing this."

According to the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York (IOGA), as of mid-May about 72 municipalities in the state have enacted moratoriums on fracking, while another 22 local governments -- including the cities of Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Geneva, Ithaca, Niagara Falls and Syracuse -- have banned fracking outright.

Last week an elected official in the Town of Horseheads, in Chemung County, said that municipality was considering a moratorium on fracking, although there weren't any formal plans to do so (see Shale Daily, June 4).

Regulators with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) are working to finalize a supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) on fracking. If approved, the SGEIS would provide the regulatory framework for the practice in New York.

In July 2008, then-Gov. David Paterson ordered the DEC to complete the SGEIS on fracking, effectively placing a moratorium on the practice. DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens has said there was no timetable for a final decision on whether fracking would be approved (see Shale Daily, April 23).

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