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Yates responds to gas drilling procedures

YATES COUNTY—The Yates County task force has completed its comments on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s proposed Marcellus Shale drilling regulations.
Barrington Supervisor Eileen Farnan said the final draft of the comments was released Wednesday, Oct. 28. She said the draft would go before the Yates County Legislature and, pending approval, would be sent on to the state. The comments are in response to the state’s proposed drilling regulations, which asked for comment between October and Nov. 30.
Yates County Administrator Sarah Purdy previously explained that the task force was formed to include only county staff, but was later opened to include most of the town supervisors. She said the task force broke up into groups to cover different parts of the proposed drilling regulations.
The task force’s draft response is five pages long. It covers storm water pollution prevention, protection of agricultural lands, agritourism concerns, and community health and safety. The response says that protecting the area environment is important because of tourism and lakeside residents, because property contributes 70 percent of the local tax base.
The first recommendation the task force makes is about storm water pollution prevention. The draft response suggests third party review of storm water prevention plans, where in the proposed regulations the plans do not have to be verified by a licensed professional engineer. It also states that Certified Professionals in Erosion and Sediment Control (CPESC) should perform the inspections, as opposed to DEC personnel.
The next part of the draft covers protection of water supplies. The task force recommends protecting the Finger Lakes the same way proposed about New York City’s watershed. The response specifies ways to protect the lakes, including that the end of gas wells and horizontal fracking lines should be a minimum of 2,000 feet away from lakes.
The third recommendation is about protecting agricultural lands. The response said “very little is mentioned in the DGEIS (Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement) on the value and the specific mitigation measures regarding agriculture.” The task force suggests a mitigation plan should be developed following New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets standards. They also suggested agriculture remediation plans be checked by DEC and/or third party inspectors. The task force also suggested involving local Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the inspections.
The fourth recommendation focused on quality of life and agritourism concerns. The response talks about the potential noise from construction equipment, drilling operations, and particularly the hydrofracking process. The task force addressed this because of the importance of tourism to the county. They said that while the DGEIS does require a noise mitigation plan, specific regulations are not mentioned. The draft response said specific regulations should be created that fit each region. As an example, it says the noise mitigation plan in Yates County should take into account the unique aspects of the area.
The draft response next talks about community health and safety. The task force said some hydrofracking chemicals are unfamiliar to area fire departments and emergency responders. They suggest that the New York Department of State’s Office of Fire Prevention and Control: Hazardous Materials Bureau, develop a training program so these emergency responders know how to handle the chemicals.
The task force’s final recommendation is about road use agreements. They suggest that the DEC include an agreement for road use in order to allow a permit, even though in the proposal it is just recommended. The task force said a permit would help protect the county and municipalities from damage to the roads due to heavy drilling traffic.

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