The Town Board of Onondaga, NY, voted Monday to extend its moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for three months, or until the board passes an ordinance either allowing or prohibiting the practice.

Located in the Utica Shale in Onondaga County, the town’s governing board is scheduled to meet again on Dec. 3 to discuss the issue and possibly take action.

“This just gives us a cushion between now and the Dec. 3 vote on whether or not to ban hydrofracking,” Town Supervisor Thomas Andino told the Syracuse Post-Standard. Council members Suzanne Belle, Charles Petrie, Donald Hamilton and Mary Ryan could not be reached for comment Tuesday. The town hall offices were closed for Election Day.

Local Law No. 7-2012, which passed Monday by an unknown margin, calls for an effective “moratorium on and prohibition of gas and petroleum exploration and extraction activities, underground storage of natural gas, and disposal of natural gas or petroleum extraction, exploration and production wastes.” It extends the moratorium until Feb. 13, or until the town “enacts comprehensive legislation regulating such uses,” whichever occurs first.

Onondaga enacted the moratorium in 2011. It was extended earlier this year.

The town’s move comes as more than 50 municipalities in New York’s Finger Lakes region ask an appellate court for permission to weigh in on whether they may ban oil and natural gas drilling within their jurisdictions (see Shale Daily, Nov. 1).

Meanwhile, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) faces a Nov. 29 deadline for its supplemental generic environmental impact statement on fracking. If the agency misses the deadline, it may need to reopen the rulemaking process to at least one public hearing, a process that could take at least 45 days (see Shale Daily, Oct. 2).

The DEC held its last public hearing on fracking on Nov. 30, 2011, and the public review process was said to be completed in January (see Shale Daily, Jan. 12). Under state law, the DEC has one year after the last hearing to finalize rules, although a 90-day extension is permitted.

Natural gas production in New York leveled off several years ago (55.2 Bcf in 2005; 55.3 in 2006 and 54.9 Bcf in 2007) and slowly declined over the next four years. In 2011, natural gas production in the Empire State was 31.1 Bcf, the lowest total since 2001.