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SCHUYLER COUNTY
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Study says hydrofracking will 'threaten' tourism

    SCHUYLER COUNTY—Cornell University doctoral candidate Andrew Rumbach has released a study saying Marcellus Shale drilling will impact the agricultural-centric tourism of the Southern Tier.
    The report, called “Natural Gas Drilling in the Marcellus Shale: Potential Impacts on the Tourism Economy of the Southern Tier,” was prepared for the Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board, with $7,000 in support from the Appalacian Regional Commission.
    Rumbach said his study focuses on Schuyler, Steuben and Chemung Counties. He said the comparative Pennsylvanian information came from published reports, studies, and interviews with agencies, officials, and experts on natural gas drilling and Marcellus Shale.
    Rumbach said all aspects of Marcellus Shale drilling combined “threaten to do serious damage to the tourism sector by degrading visitor experiences and creating an industrial landscape.” The focus of the study was not on whether drilling will hurt the tourism economy in general, but if it will damage the region’s “brand” as a “pristine and picturesque destination for wine lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and budget-conscious travelers.” Rumbach said drilling will benefit hotels, restaurants, and stores during the initial surge of drilling employees.
    However, Rumbach said that increase in business will strain short-term accommodations. He added gas workers will seek temporary housing during the summer when tourists are also looking for a place to stay. Demand for hotel rooms would also lead to higher prices, which gas companies could pay but not necessarily “cost-conscious” travelers.
    Rumbach added the room tax each county collects could be diminished. He explained drilling companies book hotel rooms for workers over extended periods of time, which would exempt them from paying the room tax. He said the room tax in Schuyler County is four percent; in 2009 the county got $295,153 from the tax and $242,446 in 2008.
    The study went on to say the visual aspects of drilling will impact Southern Tier tourism. Rumbach pointed out the drilling rigs can reach heights of 150 feet or more and are the most visible aspects of drilling activity. He said drilling transportation and storage facilities add to the long-term visual impacts. Rumbach said all components of drilling will combine to create an industrial landscape instead of a scenic one.
    Outdoor recreation is another draw for the Finger Lakes. The study said activities like fishing and hunting would be impacted. Rumbach said the chief concern is water contamination from blowouts. He added just clearing thousands of well pads could impact water runoff patterns and aquatic habitats.
    Rumbach went on to offer his recommendations on limiting the impact drilling would have on the Southern Tier region image. He said the government should limit the number of permits given to gas companies and control the pace of drilling. He also suggested changes to the room tax that remove the permanent resident exclusion. The study suggests tourism organizations get hotels and other lodging establishments to reserve a certain percentage of rooms for tourists during large events.
    The study is available online here.

 

 

 





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