June 6, 2013
Homer considers drilling setbacks
Town finishing work on zoning changes that will regulate hydraulic fracturing
HOMER — A committee examining the town’s zoning law is finalizing a recommendation for the Town Board that would prohibit gas drilling in most of the town, Town Attorney Pat Snyder told the board Wednesday night.
A “pretty strong” majority of the committee favors prohibiting gas drilling in the town’s main aquifer and within 2,000 feet of a residential well, Snyder said.
The setback from a residential well could be lowered to within 1,000 feet if all landowners within 2,000 feet of the water well are for gas drilling within that space, he said.
“If they prohibit gas drilling within 2,000 or 1,000 feet of residential wells, it would prohibit it in a large percentage of the town,” Snyder said.
The perimeter would measure the distance between the residential water well and the vertical wellbore, Snyder said — not the distance between the water well and any horizontal bores bellow the surface.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation recommends a 500-foot setback for gas well from water wells, Town Supervisor Fred Forbes said.
“There’s no scientific evidence to officially set the distance at 2,000 feet,” Forbes said.
It is difficult to determine scientifically a single ideal setback distance, Snyder said.
“We’ve heard from a lot of experts,” Snyder said, adding that the committee is leaning toward 2,000 feet.
The zoning committee has not yet finalized its recommendations and it may take a couple of months for the committee to do so, Snyder said after the meeting.
The committee has met every two weeks for the last six to eight months, he said.
It is still not absolutely certain that local zoning restrictions will hold up if the state allows horizontal gas drilling to move forward, Snyder said.
Zoning law bans were upheld in February in Dryden and Middlefield in state Supreme Court after Norse Energy, a gas drilling company, sued Dryden and a dairy farmer with a gas lease sued Middlefield.
It is still possible that the court decision will be overturned in the state Court of Appeals, Snyder said.
Questions also persist about whether horizontal gas drilling could be allowed through special use permits, he said.
Snyder believes that drilling could be allowed with the permits.
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