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Gas drilling friction in Town of Callicoon; Comprehensive plan resolutions tabled

Town resident Kimberly Guise-Erdman tells lawmakers she sold her house in North Branch, NY because of the way they have dealt with the possibility of gas drilling.
TRR photo by Fritz Mayer

By Fritz Mayer
January 23, 2013

Two resolutions related to the process of updating the comprehensive plan posted on the town’s website, which prompted a large turnout to the Town of Callicoon meeting on January 14, were tabled.

The town supervisor, Tom Bose, said that the resolutions were tabled because they needed changes, but that did not reduce the frustration of many of the 50 or so people in attendance, because the resolutions indicate that the board intends to move forward with adopting a comprehensive plan that effectively invites gas drilling in the town.

The available evidence suggests that a significant majority of town residents opposes drilling. In comments submitted in response to a survey conducted in April 2010, 11 residents supported drilling, while 82 opposed it. At a public hearing in June 2012, nine speakers favored drilling while 32 opposed it. In a mail survey conducted by a private citizen last summer, 669 respondents marked the box that indicated they were opposed to drilling and fracking, 328 marked the box indicating they were in favor of it.

Further, according to Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, “to date more than 450 stakeholders have gone on record as opposing the draft comprehensive plan’s support for high-impact industrial activity, while only nine have gone on record in support of these provisions of the plan.”

Before the comprehensive plan can be adopted, a public hearing must be held, which will take place on February 6 at 7 p.m. at the town hall in Jeffersonville.

The two tabled resolutions regarding the comprehensive plan process will probably be addressed at the regular town meeting on February 11. One of the resolutions would end the State Environmental Quality Review process, and the other would declare that the adoption of the comprehensive plan would not result in negative environmental impacts to the town.

The board may vote on the adoption of the plan itself at that time, or may postpone the decision to a later date. Whenever the vote comes, it seems likely that the board will include language that invites drilling, rather than banning it. In Sullivan County, the towns of Delaware and Fremont have taken action endorsing drilling, while Tusten, Bethel, Highland and Lumberland have banned it.

At the January 14 meeting, resident Kimberly Guise-Erdman stood and told the board she and her husband had sold their house in North Branch. She said, “The number one determining factor in making our decision has been how this town has been handling this issue of gas drilling.”