Fracking moratorium drawn up in Andes

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By Pauline Liu
The Town of Andes appears to be at the forefront of an anti-fracking movement in the New York City Watershed, especially now that Town Attorney David Merzig has drafted a proposed law that would impose a six-month moratorium on heavy industry, including hydrofracking.

Some may question these efforts, since the state is continuing to ban fracking in the watershed, which is where the city gets its water. Many Andes residents want to ensure that there will be no natural gas drilling in the town in the event that the ban is someday lifted.

The draft moratorium is expected be put to a vote by the town board after a public hearing at town hall on November 10 after 12:20 p.m.

“The real purpose is to maintain the status quo until we see where the state goes on this issue,” explained Merzig. “There is no case law. There are currently two lawsuits in the courts (Dryden and Middlefield.) This way, instead of jumping first, we can watch and see what the courts do. Then we can pass an even more protective law.”

Industrial description
The temporary law defines heavy industry as, “Any use or activity which generates significant volumes of smoke, odors, noise, or other polluting wastes and is not compatible with other uses in the town.” The examples given in the law include “exploration for natural gas; extraction of natural gas; natural gas processing facilities.”

The proposed legislation can be extended for an additional six months, in an effort to provide Andes with protection from heavy industry for up to a year, while Merzig works on more long-term legislation.

Since August, residents have been calling for measures to protect their town. Andes Supervisor Marty Donnelly has already come out in support of the proposed law. Copies of it are available at town hall. Residents who have seen a copy of the draft are also on board.

“I think David Merzig did an admirable job with the draft of the new law,” said musician Michael Suchorsky, who has a home in Andes. “The proposed moratorium observes the original Comprehensive Plan for future compatible growth adopted by the town board in 2003,” he added.

Public supportive
Resident Leigh Melander applauded the effort. “It looks as though there won’t be fracking in the watershed, but by having such a ban in place, Andes can clearly tell the world that we are a frack-free zone,” she said.

Zoe Randall also voiced her feelings about the effort. “A welcome moratorium, but six months is hardly a ban,” she said. “Still our ‘pulse’ has been taken, recorded and has caused enough stir to push NYS government to rethink the devastation heavy industry will have on our Catskill Mountain Region, as well as our industry of tourism.”

Opinions matter
Randall was referring to the newly released Pulse Opinion Poll. The survey, which was taken in early October, indicates that nearly 75 percent of the Delaware County residents surveyed oppose fracking in their town and 70 percent are in favor of zoning laws to regulate it.
The poll was funded by Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, which is a not-for-profit group. A total of 500 residents took part in the survey.