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November 5, 2010

 

Panels will explore gas drilling impacts

County subcommittees will focus on roads, public safety, housing, environment, economy

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

A number of subcommittees will be formed over the next two weeks to study the impacts that gas drilling could have locally if the state allows hydraulic fracturing to proceed.
The county Agriculture, Planning and Environment Committee Thursday endorsed forming a steering committee which will select members to sit on five subcommittees that will analyze different areas that could be affected by the gas drilling industry.
Hydrofracking, the process of injecting large quantities of chemically-treated water into the shale deep underground to extract gas, is being reviewed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Until the review is complete, there is a de facto moratorium on the process statewide.
But the technology is expected to proceed and Cortland County lawmakers want to be prepared when it does.
Agriculture Planning and Environment Committee Chair Danny Ross (R-Cortlandville) spearheaded the idea of forming the natural gas drilling task force.
Committees will be formed to examine the public safety impacts, the ways roads and infrastructure could be affected by truck traffic, the potential need for more housing for gas company crews, and the environmental and economic impacts of the industry.
Ross said the committees should be up and running within two months. Each committee will consist of about eight people who have expertise in the areas their committee is exploring, he said. The committees will meet monthly and report their findings to the Agriculture, Planning and Environment Committee.
Steering committee members will be Legislators Jack Williams (D-8th Ward), Ross, Newell Willcox (R-Homer), Larry Cornell (R-Marathon and Lapeer), Jennifer Gofkowski (D-Homer), John Steger (R-Preble and Scott) and Ray Parker (D-2nd Ward).
According to Ross, the purpose of the natural gas drilling task force is to study all the impacts natural gas development could have on the county and help local governments make the best use of those opportunities.
For example, the subcommittee that will examine the impact to roads and infrastructure, will investigate what can be done beforehand, such as documenting existing conditions of roads that could in turn be used to show how much a road has been damaged by drilling activity, he said.
The subcommittee that will examine the housing situation will research whether there is enough housing to accommodate the gas crews that will come into the community.
The public safety committee will investigate how prepared emergency crews will be in the event of a spill and the environmental subcommittee could consist of geologists and scientists who can help the county understand the potential environmental impacts of gas drilling.
Ross said he will not have anyone with existing gas leases sit on the subcommittees.
Parker said he will look for members who are not biased in one direction or another.
“I’m going to be looking for someone who’s going to look at the pluses and minuses and try to find out if there’s some way any of the negatives can be taken care of and looked at in a positive nature,” Parker said.
Parker said he does not want the potential economic benefits to be ignored and also does not want the possible adverse environmental impacts to be discounted. He said he has someone in mind to recommend for the subcommittee because the person is a scientist with knowledge of the industry.
Parker would not say who the person was until he asked him if he wants to serve.

 

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