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Groton, State Await Fracking Decision

The Groton Town Board listened to public comments for about two hours.

By: Nicole Ogrysko

A public forum brought more than 50 community members to the Groton town hall to voice their opinions on town fracking legislation Tuesday night.

The local law that would implement a six-month moratorium on hydraulic fracturing within Groton.

Most community members spoke in favor of the ban, citing their concerns about drinking water quality, health and property values.

“The decisions this board starts to make as soon as you look at the moratorium go forward perhaps for generations,” Groton resident John Gaines said at the meeting. “The moratorium itself talks about health, safety and the general welfare of the public. What will I want for my year-and-a-half year old grandson? His safety, his health and his general welfare until he gets to be 100. What will hydrofracking do for his health, safety and his general welfare?”

Some spoke out against the moratorium.

“This is a job the state should be doing and not left up to townships to make these decisions,” said Dan Carey, who got signatures from property owners with about 9,000 combined acres. “Everybody I talk to pays a great deal in taxes, and we feel that the town shouldn’t be able to legislate how we use our property.”

A 2009 Tompkins County land assessment found that Groton had 69 percent of its land leased to oil companies, the highest percentage of land leased in the county.

Town Supervisor Glenn Morey said the board would vote on the moratorium next month.

Two weeks ago, the state Supreme Court struck down Binghamton’s natural gas drilling moratorium. It said the ban wasn’t enacted properly and wasn’t needed since the state hasn’t decided whether it will permit fracking.

All of this comes as those both for and against hydraulic fracking await the state’s decision to uphold their current ban on fracking or lift the moratorium. Reports over the summer suggested Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering a partial ban — limiting hydraulic fracturing to Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga counties.

The Department of Environmental Conservation is still going through hundreds of comments on the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement. The SGEIS is meant to review the environmental impacts of fracking on the state and set conditions for any drilling permits that might be granted in the future. Though the SGEIS has no legal deadline, it’s widely expected that an updated version of the statement will be released by the end of the year.

The “rulemaking” aspect is also under consideration, which is designed to develop a set of uniform laws that would regulate hydraulic fracturing. This piece of policy has an expected release date of Nov. 29, but officials have said that it’s unlikely that deadline will be met.

The final piece comes in the form of the health review that DEC commissioner Joe Martens issued last month. The DEC has set up an independent panel to go through the possible impacts of fracking on human health.

If Groton passes the ban next month, it will be the last municipality in Tompkins County to enact a fracking moratorium. But for now, residents from Groton to Albany are playing the waiting game.

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