Two Otsego County towns working to use local laws to ban gas drilling have decided to take more time to finalize their regulations.
Middlefield, which had been scheduled to adopt its law as early as April 12, is looking to revise and tighten the proposed measure, town Supervisor David Bliss said Monday.
"We want to take our time and make sure we get it right," he said.
Town officials now plan to adopt a zoning law that will ban heavy industry, including gas drilling, by July, Bliss said.
"We've hired another lawyer with a lot of experience in this area, and that should help us go through the SEQR (state environmental quality review) process," he said.
Neal Newman, acting co-chairman of the town's Planning Board, said Tuesday the town board, not the planning board, will be lead agency for the environmental review.
Lawyer George Rodenhausen of Hudson, a land-use-law specialist who has been retained to assist town attorney David Clinton, wants to make sure the mandatory environmental review is well-documented, Newman said.
Neighboring town Springfield has decided to tweak its proposed heavy industry, gas drilling law before taking it to a public hearing, Supervisor Bill Elsey said Tuesday.
Elsey said the proposed law had included a section on roads that is unnecessary. Springfield is one of several Otsego County municipalities working with the county on a road-preservation program, he noted.
"Essentially, we want to make our law as fair and clear as possible," he said. As amended, it now places more emphasis on heavy industry (which would be banned) and less on gas drilling, one form of heavy industry, he said.
Elsey said the proposed law will be ready for a review by the county Planning Board on May 9.
"We're likely to have a public hearing May 25," he said.
Elsey said popular sentiment in Springfield is clearly to have the local law in place before the state Department of Environmental Conservation adopts its final rules on horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing -- processes used by industry to tap natural gas trapped underground in shale beds.
The DEC has announced plans to release a second draft of these proposed rules -- the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on gas drilling -- in June. After the revised draft is released, the agency must take public comments for 30 days -- and may receive them for much longer -- and then address the comments before its rules become law.
The DEC has been reviewing comments from its last draft of proposed rules for more than 15 months.
Once adopted by the agency, the SGEIS would allow drillers to drill and frack without going through local environmental reviews.
A third town working on land-use laws, the town of Otsego, has submitted proposed changes to the county Planning Board, senior county planner Karen Sullivan said.
These proposed changes would alter some definitions in the town's land use law, including "mineral extraction" and "industrial use."
Cherry Valley has been working on a draft land use law that would ban heavy industry, including drilling and hydraulic fracturing, but the county has yet to receive a request for review, Sullivan said Tuesday.
The county Planning Board's reviews are mandatory, but advisory.