Citizens’ group sponsors second public forum on gas drilling
The Concerned Citizens of the Butternut Valley is hosting a public forum titled “Gas Drilling: What Lies Beneath, What Lies Ahead,” to be held on March 23 at 7 p.m. at Morris Central School.
It will address concerns related to horizontal drilling for natural gas, an issue which has been the subject of intense public debate over the last year.
“We share concerns for the future of this beautiful area and feel it’s imperative for our residents to know all the implications and “what ifs” associated with natural gas drilling,” said Fred Johnson who has been helping to organize the forum.
“We have an opportunity to make decisions based experiences in other states and on a complete review of the procedures, regulations and consequences associated with the fracking process,” he said.
By “fracking,” Johnson was referring to hydrofracturing or hydraulic fracturing – a process used to extract natural gas from previously impermeable shale. Millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals are injected at high pressure into horizontally drilled wells as far as 10,000 feet below the surface to extract contain the gas for energy use. Concern about the environmental impacts of this process has been expressed by many individuals and environmental groups throughout the state.
Governor Paterson is currently reviewing thousands of public comments on the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement crafted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Public input on this document was closed at the end of 2009. The SGEIS will regulate horizontal gas drilling operations, should this process ultimately be permitted in the state.
Presenters and topics for the evening’s program include Brian Brock, a geologist who will talk about how natural gas was formed formed, where it is now, and how gas companies plan to extract it from the earth’s sub-surface. Scott Fickbohm, District manager, Otsego County Soil & Water Conservation will address how gas as drilling issues will affect the local watershed.
Mary Jo Long, attorney, and Afton town board member legal considerations for individuals and towns.
“Gas drilling is a slow train but a big train,” Long said. “It’s moving toward us but there are things both individuals and town governments need to know and act on in the face of gas drilling.”
Long will speak on liability issues related to personal injury or damage to property or wells and on compulsory integration, a policy which allows gas to be extracted from properties even when the land-owner has not signed a lease with a gas company.
“Some people think that because of compulsory integration they may as well sign a lease, but this is not necessarily a good idea,” she said.
Long will also urge local governments to have noise ordinances and road preservation laws in place.
In addition to panel members, Chris Haddock, real estate appraiser at Wilber Bank, will be available to answer questions regarding the effects of gas leasing on mortgages and property values.
A question and answer session will follow the presentations.
The forum is free and open to the public. In case of heavy snow, the forum will be held at the same time and place on March 24.
The CCBV has sent announcements to towns and village officials of the Butternut Valley inviting them to attend the meeting.
The CCBV is a group of residents of the Butternut Valley organized to help educate its residents on the many facets of horizontal drilling for natural gas extraction and to encourage them to be active in protecting their communities from its potential dangers. In December 2009, CCBV sponsored its first forum, “Gas Drilling: Impacts on the Butternut Valley.”
Event organizer Bob Thomas of Morris said that his concern about gas drilling was piqued after perusing the DEC website, where he read, “At least 70,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled in New York since the 1800′s, but information is available for only about 30,000 of them. Locations for the others are unknown . . .”
“If they can lose 40,000 wells over the years and leave us all in peril for each one to some extent — will things really be improved by drilling another 100,000 wells or so?” Thomas asked.
Other event organizers include Paddy Lane and David Grodsky of Pittsfield, Joe Richardson of Morris, Flo Loomis of New Lisbon, Fred Johnson of Gilbertsville and Teresa Winchester of Butternuts.