By DAN GUZEWICH Staff writer
The Oneida County Board of Legislators is again being asked to put a moratorium hydrofracking on county owned land, at least temporarily.
Six legislators are offering a measure to put the kibosh on this controversial method of drilling for natural gas on county-owned property until there’s better information available about potential effects. The technique pumps large volumes of water, sand and chemicals into deep rock formations to release natural gas.
"In short, too many unanswered questions remain and the process appears to impose too many risks, at the same time, far too little real hard science has been conducted to date to chase down the truth and reality of the potential negative impacts, many of them irreversible," says a letter from the group of lawmakers seeking colleagues’ support for setting a policy to not allow hydrofracking on county owned property indefinitely.
A little more than a year ago there was not enough support from members of the Public Works Committee to send a similar proposal to the full legislature for a vote. It received six tallies from panel members when seven were needed to advance the measure.
New York has had a moratorium on fracking for almost five years while it tries to decide whether to allow fracking.
The latest county proposal is on the agenda for Monday’s meeting of Public Works. Sponsors are: Chad Davis, D-18, Clinton; William B. Goodman, D-13, Whitestown; Brian D. Miller, R-16, New Hartford, who is chairman of Public Works; Emil R. Paparella, R-24, Utica; Philip M. Sacco, D-9, Deerfield; and Edward P. Welsh, R-21, Utica. Four of the sponsors are on Pubic Works.
A number of cities, towns and villages around the county, as well as elsewhere in the state, have enacted moratoriums or bans on hydrofracking.
Even if there’s no policy in place, gas drilling cannot occur on county land without first obtaining the go-ahead from the legislature. County Attorney Gregory J. Amoroso has said that any proposed lease with a natural gas driller would have to come before the board. There are no pending requests to lease county land for natural gas drilling.
Earlier this year, county legislators banned the use of hydrofracking brine, a liquid byproduct of the drilling process, on county roads and property. The Feb. 13 vote was 28-1. The brine can be used to melt ice as well as control dust.
Other states that sit atop the Marcellus Shale formation have allowed hydrofracking for gas. New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation is reviewing regulations for hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale and similar rock formations. Critics have raised questions about whether the drilling would pollute water supplies, how millions of gallons of wastewater from drilling would be treated, and other concerns. Proponents say the process can be done safely.
The Marcellus Shale, which covers parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and New York, is now the most productive shale gas field in the nation. Southern Oneida County is the most likely area of any in the county to attract interest from drillers.
Hydrofracking opponents have spoken at Oneida County legislature meetings periodically.