Officials hear gas storage, drilling comments
SCHUYLER COUNTY—Less than a week after taking their case to the Watkins Glen Village Board and the Schuyler County Planning Commission, opponents and proponents of the proposed Inergy liquid propane gas storage facility in Reading attended the Schuyler County Legislature meeting held on Monday, Sept. 12 to request action from the legislature.
After a brief moment of silence for fallen soldier Christopher J. Scott the meeting was opened to public participation. The legislature heard from a dozen residents over an hour of discussion. Chairman Dennis Fagan then stressed that the legislature “has no approval authority” for the proposed LPG storage facility and that hydraulic fracturing is a separate and unrelated issue. Fagan then added that personally he is against hydraulic fracturing in Schuyler County because of the strain it would place on the county’s infrastructure and that he is “quite sure that heavy traffic would adversely affect tourism.”
fter investigating the issue and reaching out to Inergy officials, institutions and agencies, Fagan concluded that fracturing is unlikely to occur in Schuyler County. He said that 3,000 feet of overburden is required to successfully extract the natural gas held in the Marcellus Shale formation. Overburden is the depth of the material lying between the surface and the gas containing shale. In Schuyler County, Fagan reported, the depth is mostly around 1,400 feet, making fracturing unlikely. Fagan concluded that if fracturing were allowed in New York, “it will mostly occur in the Southern Tier,” where the overburden is adequate.
US Salt employee and chemical engineer David Crea spoke on behalf of what he calls the “silent majority” of Inergy supporters. Crea argued that “nutrients from people and agricultural pesticides are the greatest threats to Seneca Lake’s clean water.” He explained that the wine industry itself is a fairly recent change for the Finger Lakes area and residents have adjusted its presence the same way they will adjust to LPG storage. Crea then urged the legislature to submit a letter supporting the LPG project to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in response to the agency’s draft environmental impact statement covering the facility.
Gas Free Seneca representative Joseph Campbell then reiterated concerns his group had expressed to other governmental bodies last week and asked the legislature to demand that a quantitative risk analysis of the proposed facility be prepared at Inergy expense. Campbell added that he is not opposed to propane in general, only the plan to locate a propane storage facility on a steep hill above a large source of fresh water.
Hector resident Libby Foust then discussed some of the changes her family farm has endured in Bradford, Pa. since gas drilling began. Foust talked off sooty water, raised rents and nonstop noise. Gita Devi, who owns and operates the Ginger Cat Bed & Breakfast in Reading, explained that her guests from downstate “comment on how peaceful and quiet [their stay] is.” Devi added that she feared her business could be “impacted or destroyed” by the effects of the proposed facility including increased truck traffic. Chris Tate explained that when drilling starts “property values dive,” and that the proposed facility has already had an impact on the economy in that he and his wife abandoned plans to purchase lake view property and have decided against remodeling their home in Schuyler County because of the project.
Several speakers then took the opportunity to relay their concerns about the natural gas industry as a whole. Bob Fitzsimmons, who is running for the town of Hector supervisor position, feared that “tourists will be turned off when [Schuyler County] looks like gas country rather than wine country.” This sentiment was echoed by Bo Lipari who is seeking a seat on the Hector Town Council. Lipari said the area is facing an “either/or situation” and that if fracturing is allowed the area will see “short term gains for few with long term consequences for many.”
A public hearing on the draft environmental impact statement prepared by the NYSDEC is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 27.
In other business:
• The preliminary August sales tax revenue reports for the county show an increase over the same period from last year. The amount exceeds the budgeted amount for the month by 14.4 percent.
• A public hearing was held on a law proposed to waive the residency requirement for the public defender position for Schuyler County. No public comments were received and residency requirement was waived.
• During the Resolution Committee meeting prior to the regular meeting, the legislature voted not be repave the Human Services Complex parking lot during the 2011 fiscal year. County Executive Tim O’Hearn explained that in a tight fiscal year it does not make sense to commission an undertaking of this scale. He addded that his investigation showed that the project can be delayed for a year or two “without risking the health or safety of the public, and without adding expense [to the overall cost of the project].”