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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 15, 2011


Rensselaerville gives green light to hydrofracking committee

RENSSELAERVILLE — With a moratorium now in place, a committee has formed that will research the potential effects of hydraulic fracturing in town.

The committee, which calls it self the Rensselaerville High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Committee, began meeting on Nov. 30, and elected John Mormile, a retired school teacher, as its chairman. With the town’s location atop the Marcellus Shale formation, the four town board members present at the Nov. 10 meeting voted in favor of the moratorium; Councilman Gary Chase was absent.

High-volume hydraulic fracturing is a drilling process used by oil companies to reach shale deposits, “done in multiple stages, typically using 300,000 to 600,000 gallons of water per stage,” according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The DEC released a revision of its supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) for hydraulic fracturing on Sept. 7. The document reviews the potential environmental impacts of hydrofracking, and how to minimize those impacts; and the public comment period for the DEC’s proposed regulations on hydrofracking has been extended to Jan. 11, 2012.

The DEC would have the responsibility of granting permits for drilling, and the state’s Environmental Conservation Law says that it “shall supersede all local laws or ordinances relating to the regulation of the oil, gas and solution mining industries.”

Some argue that municipalities can exercise some control over hydraulic fracturing by using their zoning laws. The Rensselaerville committee will determine what’s right for this rural Hilltown.

“I’m very interested in the whole topic of hydraulic fracturing and the effect it’s going to have on the community, our water, and the environment in total,” Mormile said.

Also on the committee are: David Bowdish; Kurt Kunkler; Dave Warburton; and Jeanette Rice, who will also serve as the committee’s secretary.

Rice, Mormile said, “has done a great deal of studying on hydrofracking and the various forms of it,” and “has all kinds of documentation she has collected over the past couple of years.”

Each member’s term will end on Dec. 31, 2012, as was agreed upon by the town board at its Dec. 13 meeting, when it voted to form the committee by a unanimous vote.

Mormile wrote in a letter, “The committee will examine impacts on the local economy, property values, water supply, roads and safety, the local environment, the character of the town, and the quality of life for its residents. At the conclusion of their study, the committee will make recommendations to the town board.”

The committee will meet on Thursday evenings throughout 2012. All meetings are open to the public, each of which will end with an opportunity for audience comments. Meetings are scheduled for Dec. 15; Jan. 5; Jan. 12; Jan. 19; and Jan. 26, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. Future dates will be made public as they are scheduled by the committee.

Residents may also contact the committee at renhvhfc@gmail.com, or by leaving a note at Town Hall.

“Our committee work has just begun, and we all realize the immense amount of research, study and discussion ahead of us,” Mormile concluded in his letter. “But, this committee is dedicated to looking at all sides of the issue with open minds, and providing the Town Board with useful recommendations in 2012.”

— Zach Simeone


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