Copake will send frackers packing

Town adopts 18-month moratorium on gas exploration
COPAKE—If hydrofrackers set their sights on this town, officials want to be ready.
The Copake Town Board became the second in Columbia County to enact an 18-month moratorium on natural gas mining and its ancillary activities, October 11.
Germantown enacted a similar moratorium in April after a local business owner was contacted about whether his property was available for use in the exploration process. Germantown, along with Livingston and Clermont conducted a joint public forum July 26 on the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called hydrofracking, a method used to tap into underground shale deposits to extract natural gas. The focus of gas exploration and extraction has been a geological formation called the Marcellus shale, which is found beneath large parts of central New York State, but apparently not beneath Columbia County. Another formation called Utica shale is found in small sections of this county along the western side. The state is still deciding how to regulate hydrofracking and Governor Cuomo recently ordered a review of the potential impacts of drilling on public health.
A possible moratorium on hydrofracking came up for discussion at the July 19 Chatham Town Board meeting. The Taghkanic Town Board is actively considering a 12-month moratorium. In Hillsdale hydrofracking is on the radar and whether to propose a moratorium is under consideration by the Comprehensive Planning Steering Committee, according to Committee Chair Tom Carty.
The Copake moratorium will give the town a chance to study the issue. “Changes in the mining industry have given the Town of Copake sufficient reason to believe that additional study and examination of necessary land use regulations related to natural gas mining is warranted.”
The mining of natural gas originally came up at the board’s August meeting, when Supervisor Jeff Nayer explained that waste water and chemicals result after having been injected into the earth to get the natural gas out. He said not only is the dumping of these byproducts of concern, but also the transport of the substances takes a toll on infrastructure and should be included in a moratorium.
Town Attorney Ken Dow obtained a draft of the proposed Taghkanic local law that would place a moratorium on hydrofracking and amended it to fit Copake’s needs. One of the changes Mr. Dow made was related to penalties for violations. Violators of moratorium provisions, which prohibit natural gas mining and activities associated with it such as receipt, transfer, storage, processing or disposal of fluids or other substances used in natural gas mining, face a civil penalty of no less than $500/day and no more than $5,000/day for a violation. Each day a violation exists constitutes an additional violation.
A public hearing on the local law took place prior to the September 4 Town Board meeting.
The Columbia County Planning Board ruled that the local law would have no significant countywide impact and was subject to local jurisdiction.
After the board’s unanimous approval, Supervisor Nayer asked the town’s Environmental Committee to assume lead agency status on the matter. Committee Chair Harvey Weber has already attended a fracking symposium and will organize public forums to help residents and officials get informed and decide if and what natural gas mining regulations should be enacted.
In other business, the board heard from Supervisor Nayer that Conklin Services and Construction of Newburgh, the firm the town contracted with for the replacement of a diesel fuel tank at the Town Highway Garage a year ago, has failed to complete the job. The supervisor said the installation of the monitoring system, which was part of the project, is still outstanding. Town Attorney Dow has sent “demand to perform” letters and made phone calls to the firm asking when the work would be done, but never received an answer. The attorney told the board the firm has defaulted on the contract and due to the breach the town is within its rights to hire someone else to get the work done. Supervisor Nayer said he wanted to be sure that the Conklin firm could not come back and ask to be paid.
The original contract was for $56,202, which included a $1,400 credit from the earlier rental of temporary tanks from the same firm. Mr. Nayer said that the town has so far not paid the firm anything.
The town is soliciting bids for the purchase and installation of a new Fuel Master Fuel Management System. Bids must be received by October 24, when the Town Board will conduct a special meeting and budget workshop beginning at 6:45 p.m.
To contact Diane Valden email .

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