Town Residents Fear Idea Of Fracking In Chautauqua

CHAUTAUQUA – Residents of the town of Chautauqua as well as members of the public from well outside town borders attended the January board meeting to discuss the issue of hydraulic fracturing, often referred to as fracking.

Fracking is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas. Fracking is not currently allowed in New York state, but is done in neighboring Pennsylvania, and it is expected that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will decide this year whether or not it will be allowed in the state. In December the question of whether the town of Chautauqua should declare a moratorium on fracking had been placed on the agenda for January.

While the question of whether the process will be allowed in the town has since been moved to the February meeting, that did not stop those who had come to the meeting from expressing strongly held opinions on the issue. First to comment was Diane Hofner, who wants not just a moratorium but a ban on fracking and on the transport of any fracking waste through the town. She spoke of health problems which she believes have occurred in areas of Pennsylvania where fracking has been allowed. She spoke of problems with the brine produced as a waste product of the process.

Nancy Karp, a Chautauqua resident, said that the town has a particular responsibility to protect the lake, and therefore it is important for the town to impose a local moratorium and likely a long-term ban on the process, at least until there is more certainty about the long-term effects of fracking on land as well as on bodies of water.

Similar sentiments were echoed by local residents Laura Damon and Karen Harvey, and by Glen Shoup, a young man who traveled from Mayo, because of his opposition to any fracking activities in the state.

Chautauqua County Legislator Dave Himelein, R-Findley Lake, pointed out that the County Legislature will be discussing the fracking issue in upcoming committee meetings. The issue may be studied by the Public Facilities Committee and/or by the Planning & Economic Development Committee.

These committee meetings are open to the public and are listed on the county website.

Other topics covered at the meeting included some discussion of the work that continues toward the development of a multi-use trail to run from Barcelona to Chautauqua Institution. The steering committee for the project is working on grant applications for a number of sections of the trail, some of which will run through the Chautauqua Gorge.

It is believed that space in the town building will be rented to the public defender’s office by the end of this month.

The town audit has been completed, and a clean audit report issued.

The issue of the fracking moratorium will be considered at the next board meeting on Feb. 20.