Despite seeing some economic benefits from Marcellus Shale drilling in neighboring Pennsylvania, elected officials in the Town of Horseheads, NY, are considering a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in their community.

Such a move by Horseheads, which is in Chemung County, would be meaningful because it is in the Southern Tier, the portion of the state energy companies predict would yield high natural gas production if the state’s moratorium on high-volume fracking is lifted.

“We’re considering it; we’re studying it,” Albert Curren, Horseheads deputy supervisor, told NGI’s Shale Daily on Friday. “This board had talked about it, but they’ve made no decisions. I have no idea which way it’s going to go. It might not go anyplace.”

Curren said the five-member town board normally meets on the second Wednesday of every month. He said there wasn’t any plan to enact a formal moratorium on fracking at its next meeting on June 13.

“We’ve looked at other towns that have enacted moratoriums,” Curren said. “We’ve been looking at what those people printed up, the way they’ve set their resolutions up and so forth. We’re just studying that stuff so that when and if we have to do it we’re going to be ready.”

Cherie Messore, spokeswoman for the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York (IOGA), told NGI’s Shale Daily that as of mid-May about 72 municipalities in the Empire State have enacted moratoriums on fracking. She said another 22 local governments — including the cities of Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Geneva, Ithaca, Niagara Falls and Syracuse — have placed outright bans on the practice.

“We’re constantly on the watch for any news of any movement like this,” Messore said Friday. “We’re in touch and are constantly reaching out to different town supervisors. When we hear that a town is even considering going down this path, we immediately send out an information packet and offer to go into the town and meet with the town supervisor or the board.

“Frankly, when people ask for a moratorium, they’re basically asking for more time for education and to learn more about how to best serve their constituents. That’s where we come in; we’re in the perfect position to provide that education, background and depth of knowledge.”

Curren said he’s taken a trip to Dimock Township, PA, to get some of that education himself (see Shale Daily, May 15). He said he was concerned with what he saw, but he didn’t say that would necessarily affect his vote on a possible moratorium in Horseheads.

“I didn’t like what I saw [in Dimock],” Curren said. “I saw a lot of neglect, neglect from the people that run the town and from the contractors. It was hell. It’s unbelievable what they did down there.”

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.

“We want to wait until they [the DEC] come out with that, if they ever do,” said Curren, who added that he doesn’t believe the town would enact a moratorium before the DEC rolls out its SGEIS. “They say it’s close. I have a feeling that they will be done with it very shortly. I just have that feeling. They’ve been working on it a long time. They’ve got to be coming near the end of it.”

Messore said IOGA was surprised by the news from Horseheads because of its proximity to Bradford County, PA, one of the most productive counties in Pennsylvania.

“There’s been a good spike in hotel, restaurant and small business growth in Horseheads,” Messore said. “Some of the workers going in to work in Bradford County are living and spending money and staying in Horseheads, so they have seen some value from being a community that’s part of Marcellus Shale growth and development. They’ve seen some great economic prosperity already.”

Curren concurred. “I know people are moving into Horseheads,” he said. “We have a well driller setting up an office in our industrial park. But I personally don’t have a lot of faith in the DEC.”