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March 14, 2013

Board waits on longer frack moratorium

Current law set to expire April 2

By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star

---- — About 20 people voiced opposition to hydraulic fracturing for shale gas urged the Oneonta Town Board to extend a moratorium on the practice during an hour-long public hearing at Town Hall on Wednesday night.

But the board didn’t take action on a proposed extension, and a motion to set a special meeting to consider the measure failed in a 2-2 vote.

The one-year moratorium approved by a one-vote margin last year expires April 2. The moratorium addresses all forms of drilling and associated activities, such as the storage of drilling-related materials.

On Wednesday night, more than one resident said that the board should meet for a vote well before the April 2 expiration date and that board members should be available to attend the meeting.

Board members Scott Gravelin and William Mirabito voted against a motion to hold a special meeting at 7:30 p.m. March 21. Board member David Jones and Supervisor Robert Wood voted in favor of the date, and board member Janet Hurley Quackenbush was absent.

Robert Panasci of Young and Sommer in Albany, appointed Wednesday night as the town’s attorney, said councilmen must be present to vote and cannot vote by proxy.

About 55 people attended Wednesday’s meeting, and Wood allowed speakers two minutes each.

Most town residents who spoke Wednesday urged the board to extend the moratorium to protect the community, its population and natural resources. Applause from the audience reinforced views shared.

Other speakers, including some who came from other towns in Otsego County, voiced opposition to fracking, and they warned of negative health and environmental impacts.

Wood said a motion wasn’t required to set a date for a special meeting, which could be called by two town board members.

“That’s what we’ll have to do,’’ he said.