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January 29, 2011

 

Tompkins to outline law to protect roads

Meeting will explain proposal to safeguard them from gas drilling, industrial activities

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

ITHACA — A proposed law aimed at protecting roads in Tompkins County from the expected influx of gas drilling activity will be outlined at 7 p.m. Monday in the first-floor conference room of 125 E. Court St., the county’s old jail office building.
A public hearing on the law will be held the following day.
The law will require any industry bringing heavy truck traffic into the county to obtain a permit from the county highway manager and post a bond to ensure damaged roads will be repaired.
Tompkins County Government Operations Committee Chair Michael Lane (D-Dryden) said the meeting is being held to dispel fears that the law will affect normal business operations of local industries.
“It exempts all agricultural use and is not designed to impede people who have trucking businesses and regular business use of county highways,” Lane said.
Instead, the law is aimed at businesses that would incur frequent, heavy truck traffic on a temporary basis that could damage roads, for example the gas drilling industry or construction projects.
Lane said the law is not designed to target any specific industry but concerns about the high volume truck traffic associated with the gas drilling industry sparked the law.
The “hydrofracking” method of extracting gas from underground shale by injecting large quantities of chemically treated water requires large volumes of truck traffic shipping water to drill sites.
There is currently a moratorium on the practice in New York.
In December, Gov. David Paterson issued an executive order that implemented a seven-month moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing of horizontally drilled wells.
Lane said county officials explored drilling operations in Pennsylvania where they found numerous tankers hauling water, crushed stone and increased traffic to and from drill rigs.
Cortland County officials have expressed similar concerns over the possible heavy truck traffic associated with the industry.
They are in the process of enacting a road preservation law similar to ones already adopted by towns such as Freetown, Homer, Scott and Virgil.
The law would hold companies liable for damaging roads and require permits for overweight vehicles. Cortland County officials are still examining how to introduce the law in final form.
The Tompkins County legislation is geared toward industry generating more than 10 truck trips per day for more than three days a week, and trucks that are over 20 tons.
“The intent ... is not to eliminate a project but to say, if the roads get destroyed for that particular activity, it shouldn’t be the county taxpayers who foot the cost of that, it ought to be the people doing the damage,” Lane said.
The proposed law was recommended by the Tompkins County attorney last fall, said Lane, but is just coming for a public hearing now.
Over the year different versions of the proposal were considered.
The Legislature’s Government Operations Committee and Facilities and Infrastructure Committee have reviewed the law.
After a public hearing on the law Tuesday prior to the Legislative session, the law could be passed or postponed to be acted on later.

 

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