Moratorium Concerns

WESTFIELD – Representatives of two energy companies, Empire Energy and Intervest Operating, stood during the public comment period of the Westfield Town Board meeting to speak against the idea of a fracking moratorium.

No moratorium proposal has been made by the town, but as Tim Hull of Empire Energy said, they “wanted to get ahead of the question” and explain why they feel it is important not to pass a moratorium measure similar to those considered recently in the village of Mayville and the town of Chautauqua.

Hull spoke about the need to continually drill new gas wells, as existing wells are depleted at a rate of about 3 percent per year. The large energy companies have many options for locations to drill, and even though a properly written moratorium on high-volume horizontal fracturing should not affect vertical drilling, many of these measures are not written correctly, so they may impede vertical drilling. In any event, a moratorium creates a negative atmosphere for a drilling company with many options, so that the company will find it simpler to drill in an area where methods are not restricted, Hull said.

Hull pointed out that his company, Empire Energy, employs 33 people for its Mayville operations, has a $1.3 million payroll and makes payments to Chautauqua County vendors of approximately $580,000 annually.

Dave White of Intervest Operating emphasized that since no permit processing could be done until April of 2015, a moratorium would not have any real effect other than to create a negative environment for potential drillers.

In other news, Supervisor Martha Bills provided updates on some of the town’s ongoing projects. The town has borrowed funds for its planned dredging of Barcelona Harbor, which will be reimbursed through the Department of Agriculture when the project is completed. The project will be done by the Army Corps of Engineers, who will be dredging in each of the county’s three small harbors, including Barcelona. The town will receive $20,000 from the Army Corps for the dredging project. The county will provide $50,000, and additional funds may be provided by the state, but it is not yet known the extent to which the state will support the project.

At this point drawings for the project have been drawn up for dredging the entire area, but depending on funding it is likely that only a portion of the project will be done this year.