Town of Avon
Avon fracking moratorium now in limbo
At its meeting on this Thursday, June 28, at 7 p.m. the Town of Avon will be continuing a public hearing on a proposed local law which will impose a moratorium on high volume horizontal hydrofracking.
Crafting a moratorium which will not impact existing gas well operations in the town — 16 operating sites owned by Lenape — has proven to be tricky. The present proposal is a third version of the moratorium thus far entertained by the board over the last seven months, but is by no means assured of unanimous board support, or even successful adoption.
Lenape president John Holko has been a regular observer and commentor at meetings when the moratorium has been a subject of discussion, and the board has reacted to Holko’s viewpoint with sensitivity.
“We want to make sure we have a defensible document,” said Avon Town Supervisor David LeFeber. “We don’t want to do anything to interfere with the existing gas wells. We want to make sure we have done the proper notification and are taking our time to do this correctly.”
At the previous meeting of the board, after the public hearing for the moratorium commenced, a ‘straw poll’ taken in the absence of Deputy Supervisor Tom Mairs had two members — LeFeber and Jim Blye — supporting the moratorium, and two members — Dick Steen and Bob Ayers — in opposition. Councilman Steen was among local representatives who accepted an invitation by producers — the Chesapeake Company — to tour areas of Pennsylvania where fracking is taking place and see for themselves what the impacts are.
Avon town attorney James Campbell swiftly shepherded Livingston County’s prototype fracking moratorium last fall for the Town of Livonia, where he also serves as town attorney. In contrast, the Avon moratorium has proven to be a more tedious project. However, Campbell has additionally guided Springwater through its moratorium adoption and has prepared moratorium language for the Town of York, where he has recently accepted the appointment of town attorney.
Gas well development in the Marcellus shale in the Town of Avon is an unlikely prospect in the foreseeable future because of the shale’s proximity to the surface and low gas content.
On the other hand, there remains concern over environmental threats associated with hydrofracking the much deeper (8,000 feet) Utica Shale layer, where the high pressures and abundant presence of natural gas makes extraction more lucrative.
LeFeber is aware of a significant number of residents of the town who are very much opposed to any kind of hydraulic fracturing where they live. Indeed anti-fracking opinions will likely be expressed in abundance on Thursday night.
In anticipation of the moratorium going into effect, LeFeber has started appointing a committee which will gather information to review the issues and make recommendations back to the town board. Board members Blye and Steen were appointed to the committee at the town organizational meeting, while several residents-at-large have expressed interest in being citizen committee representatives.
Eleven of Livingston County’s 17 townships now have hydrofracking moratoriums in place. They are Livonia, Lima, Caledonia, Geneseo, Conesus, Mount Morris, Nunda, West Sparta, Sparta, Springwater and North Dansville.
In addition to Avon, moratoriums are pending in Portage and York.
Portage Town Supervisor Ivan Davis advised that his town’s moratorium proposal is in place and ready for adoption, lacking only a formal resolution of approval by the town board. However, since there seems to be no immediate urgency or likelihood of fracking in Portage, the board is reluctant to adopt the measure and “start the clock ticking” against what would not be a permanent ban.
A later adoption will allow the town time to study the issue at a more leisurely pace, when there could be actual drilling proposals on the horizon.
Portage was host for a large and at times contentious information meeting on the subject of hydrofracking last year at the Hunt Baptist Church.
The Town of York has prepared language for a moratorium and referred its proposal to the Livingston County Planning Board. The moratorium local law may be introduced — and the public hearing scheduled — during this Thursday’s meeting of the York Town Board.
Three towns have taken no legislative action: Groveland, Leicester and Ossian.
However, in Groveland a concerned citizens’ committee is undertaking a public education project of the kind which might also be underway with a moratorium in effect.
The group is hosting a community educational forum on hydraulic fracking which will take place this Saturday, June 30, from 12:30 to 3 p.m. at the Groveland Federated Parish, 6616 Groveland Hill Road (one block from town hall). Both pro- and anti- fracking viewpoints will be heard, followed by a question and answer period. Light refreshments will be served. Admission is free.
Speakers will include John Holko, president of Lenape Resources, Inc. representing the Independent Gas & Oil Producers of NYS; Jordan Kleiman, associate professor at SUNY Geneseo speaking on the historical aspects, need for regulations, and effects on humans and animals caused by hydraulic fracturing; and Bob Thompson, retired educator and business owner, speaking on the effects of hydraulic fracturing on mortgages and land values.
Besides the concerned citizens who are sponsoring the Saturday forum, Groveland also has a town-board-appointed Citizens’ Advisory Committee, charged with studying the fracking issue and eventually making a report with recommendations to the town board.