September 28, 2011 —
As a member of the Sullivan County Multi-Municipal Task Force (MMTF), officials in the Town of Callicoon are considering the adoption of a road-use agreement that would allow them to protect their roads if a high-impact industrial use, such as gas drilling, moved into town.
Also, the town’s draft comprehensive plan mentions concerns about gas drilling several times in terms of posing a possible threat to local water supplies and related environmental hazards, but unlike some other towns in the MMTF, Callicoon officials are not seeking to adopt zoning changes that would seriously restrict or ban high impact industrial uses and, therefore, gas drilling.
Also, unlike some of the other towns, officials have not held a meeting specifically centered on gas drilling, and have not expressed opposition to it taking place in the town. In Bethel, virtually all candidates running for office in November have declared their opposition to the coming of drilling; the same is also true in Lumberland, Highland and Tusten. In Cochecton, the official position is that officials are neutral on the question, which has sparked criticism from some residents at meetings.
Against this backdrop, the Democratic Club of the Town of Callicoon sponsored a meeting at the town hall in Jeffersonville on September 24. The supervisor and members of the town board did not attend, but Bruce Ferguson, who is running for supervisor, and Linda Babicz and Jill Wiener, who are running for seats on the town board, were on hand.
William Kappel, who is a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, gave a presentation and fielded questions from the approximately 80 people in attendance. Much of the discussion centered on the proposed final draft for the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) that was released by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation on September 7.
Judging by the questions asked, it’s safe to say that three years after the subject of gas drilling arose in the region, there are still members of the public with questions about the process, such as who is responsible for obtaining baseline information about the quality of water in a home-
owner’s well to be used if a well is contaminated by gas drilling. That answer: in New York, it’s the responsibility of the homeowner; in Pennsylvania, if there is a contaminated well near a drilling operation, it’s up to the drilling company to prove it did not cause the contamination. Kappel said he had hoped the draft SGEIS would alter the situation in New York, but it didn’t happen.
Kappel also noted that the question of whether drilling will come to Sullivan County at all is still up in the air. He repeated Terry Engelder’s theory about a “line of death,” running somewhat parallel to the line between Delaware and Sullivan counties in New York. Engelder, a professor of geophysics and acknowledged expert on the Marcellus Shale formation, predicts that on the Delaware side of the line, gas will exist in recoverable amounts, but not on the Sullivan side.
Kappel said there have been no wells drilled to confirm that.