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February 28, 2013

Board tomeet on drilling moratorium

By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star

---- — The Oneonta Town Board will have a workshop meeting tonight on a proposed extension of a moratorium on natural gas drilling.

The meeting in Town Hall in West Oneonta will be at 7 p.m., and Supervisor Robert Wood said there will be time for public comments. A public hearing is set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, March 13, on the proposed moratorium.

“It’s very, very similar to the existing moratorium,’’ Wood said Wednesday.

In March last year, the town board passed a 12-month moratorium by a one-vote margin. The moratorium addresses all forms of drilling and associated activities, such as the storage of drilling-related materials.

The proposal would extend the existing moratorium for one year, Wood said, and it includes references to the town’s ongoing work on a comprehensive plan. The extension is under consideration because the town didn’t have time to finish its comprehensive plan, a project that now has surveys circulating among town residents and businesses, he said.

The draft of the law was prepared by the town’s recently hired legal firm, Coughlin & Gerhart, Wood said.

At tonight’s meeting, town board members will review the proposed law and take any actions needed to refer the law to local boards, neighboring towns and to Otsego County.

The town banned mining without special approval under a law passed in 2004. Gas drilling is defined as a mining operation under that law, which was driven by a concern over gravel mines, rather than gas drilling.

The moratorium gives the town a chance to review its laws, consider developments in natural gas drilling and possible changes to local laws, according to Wood.

Meanwhile in Albany, a coalition of health professionals, environmental groups and elected officials has calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to conduct a health impact study before any decision is made on whether to lift the state’s 5-year-old moratorium on shale gas drilling using fracking.

Wednesday was the deadline for the Department of Environmental Conservation to issue the final version of proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, The Associated Press reported. 

But Commissioner Joe Martens has said the regulations won’t be completed until the state’s health commissioner concludes his review of potential health impacts, which the health commissioner said would take several weeks.