Strong opposition to gas exploration

By Mike Raykovicz Contributing Writer

Elmira, N.Y. — The DEC’s plan to open state forest land for gas
drilling exploration is meeting stiff opposition from residents,
hunters, and conservationists in several Southern Tier
counties.

DEC is looking to lease approximately 21,000 acres of state
forest land on 17 sites in parts of Broome, Cortland, Tioga,
Schuyler, Chemung, Steuben and Tompkins counties for gas drilling
exploration.

Approximately 50 people attended DEC’s informational meeting at
the Holiday Inn in Elmira on June 28 and almost no one spoke in
favor of it.

Vestal resident Ben Margolius said he had environmental
concerns, especially about the aquifer in the area and the
potential damage to the drinking water supply for the homes in the
area.

“Drilling is inconsistent with the preservation of the woods,”
Margolius said.

Vestal Town Supervisor Anndrea Starzak presented a petition
drafted by the Vestal Town Board opposing the drilling. The
objections were based on concerns that the existing infrastructure
in the area would not be able to withstand the impact of the heavy
drilling equipment; the impact of drilling on the pristine natural
environment of the Vestal forest land; and potential light
pollution on the nearby Kopernik Space Education Center and
Observatory.

Starzak also read a statement issued by George Normandin,
president of the Kopernik Astronomical Society in which he said,
“The gas drilling would essentially make our observatory useless.
Any source of bright light, air pollution and vibration like that
would be a detriment to our operation.”

Rick Briere of Owego opposed to the proposed drilling, saying
he’s lived with drilling operations in Tioga County and found the
whole procedure to be “very stressful.” Briere was also critical of
the DEC’s meeting schedule, contending the meetings on the proposal
were held too far away and that there was very poor communication
as to the date and time of the meetings. “Drilling is hell on Earth
and we don’t want it,” Briere said.

Christine Thorborg of Big Flats also opposed the drilling,
noting that since the proposal involved public land there should be
a public referendum on the issue.

Jay Thatcher, an attorney who owns land near the Tracy Creek
tract in Vestal, warned that the bonds put up by the drilling
company may not mean anything if they ever had to pay for damages
done to the environment or to the local infrastructure while
drilling.

His concern was echoed by Cedric Stewart, Orange Town
supervisor, who said damages done to the town’s roads by previous
drilling operations were paid for with town funds despite the fact
there was a bond posted by the drilling company to cover such
damage. According to Stewart, the town has not seen one cent in
payment for damage done to the town’s roads.

Duane Mills from Elmira and Elaine Dalrymple from Montour Falls
weren’t totally opposed to the drilling but both felt the idea of
the state getting only one-eighth of the value of the gas is way
too low. Their feelings were reinforced by Chris Denton, an
attorney from Elmira, who stated that if drilling has to be done
then the state should negotiate the drilling rights and the
percentage of royalties being paid by the drilling company. Some
landowners are being paid 18.5 percent while gas drillers on
Pennsylvania state game lands are paying the Pennsylvania Game
Commission a 19.2 percent royalty, Denton said.

“A one-eighth share for New York State is way too low,” he
said.

There were several people in attendance who didn’t speak at the
public forum but had an opinion regarding the proposed
drilling.

“The drilling and discovery of natural gas can lower our need
for foreign fuel sources and might be good for the local economy in
this area,” said Paul Rossi of Corning.

Pat Karas, who along with husband Tim, operates a farm in the
Chemung County town of Van Etten, said they are “naturally very
concerned about the land. How this operation works from start to
finish is critically important to us. The environment is very
important to us, and the wildlife. If you take care of the land,
the land takes care of you and that’s our number one concern.”

Pat Karas also said she didn’t think the people who are involved
with the leasing are always up front with the landowner.

“That is a very real concern,” she said. “The landowners want
people to be honest with them and to be involved with this drilling
process from start to finish.”

Vestal resident Ted Liburdi said, “If they think they can drill
in pristine woods, then where does it all end?”

A similar session in Cortland yielded overwhelming opposition to
the proposal, which could generate several million dollars in
revenue for the state. All of that money, however, would go into
the general fund and none into the conservation fund, since no
Wildlife Management Unit land is involved in the proposal.

DEC officials have said that while 21,000-plus acres is
targeted, just a fraction of that would likely be used for drilling
purposes and less than one percent would be disturbed for drilling
or access.

Categories: News Archive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *