Groton Town Board issues

Groton was the last municipality in Tompkins County to take action on a moratorium or ban, and the only municipality to vote against a moratorium .  The board drafted a moratorium in August 2012 but then refused to vote on it, so as to avoid going on record with their opinions on fracking and the massive industrialization that the gas extraction industry would bring to Groton.  Immediately after losing a seat (and almost 2) in the November election, the board held a sham public hearing and voted against the moratorium before the new board member could take her seat.  The details are here.

frack trucksThe town board also refuses to allow public input on changes to road use regulations, which will be crucially important for managing the huge increases in truck traffic associated with hydraulic fracturing.  They will not provide any information on their work (if any) developing  road protection laws.  Groton’s lack of transparency stands in contrast to nearby towns such as Caroline and Dryden that have involved the public in their efforts to protect their residents and infrastructure from possible increases in truck traffic.

Contact the town supervisor, Glenn Morey, to let him know how you feel about the town’s actions against a moratorium and road protection regulations.

The next Groton Town Board meeting will be on Tuesday, April 8 at 7:30pm.   Meetings take place at 101 Conger Blvd.

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Timeline of events

December 13, 2011:  GRAC presents the town board with a set of questions (detailed below) about the costs and benefits of hydrofracking in Groton as a way of starting a dialogue with the board.  The board has never responded to the questions.

January 10, 2012:  Mike Goldstein from GRAC gives a formal presentation to the town board on the effects that hydrofracking and associated industraiization would have on Groton.

April 10, 2012:  GRAC presents the board with volume I of our petition to ban hydrofracking in Groton, with a total of 627 signatures

August 14, 2012:  Town board directs the town attorney to draft a moratorium on hydrofracking (resolution #12-050).

September 11, 2012:  GRAC presents the town board with volume II of our petition to ban hydrofracking, bringing the total to 794 signatures.  The town board votes to move forward with a public hearing on the moratorium (resolution #12-054).  The vote is split, with Sovocool, Scheffler, and Morey voting in favor and Gamel and Clark voting against.

October 9, 2012:  A public hearing on the moratorium is held.  The board received a written response from Tompkins County planning, that the local law would have no negative inter-community or county-wide impacts.  At the hearing, 30 people speak in favor of a moratorium and 6 speak against.  At the end of the hearing, though no changes were made to the wording of the moratorium, the board votes (resolution #12-059) to send the moratorium wording back to the Tompkins County planning for their approval (again).

November 13, 2012:  The board tables a vote on the moratorium until they can create an “ethics board” to advise them how to deal with potential conflicts of interest arising from board members’ past or present gas leases.

July 9, 2013:  The town board finally establishes an ethics board, though the members of the ethics board will be appointed by the town board and a town board member will sit on the ethics board.

August 13, 2013:  The town board appoints members of the ethics board.  The process by which appointees were chosen is opaque.  At least two of the ethics board members have publicly stated that they are pro-drilling.

September 10, 2013:  The ethics board met but was not asked to take up the moratorium issue.  Glenn Morey stated that the town board will not address the moratorium until after the elections in November.

Up to this point, it is clear that the town board has been stalling and has no intention to vote on the moratorium.  The town board continues to ignore the needs of its constituents.

November 12, 2013:  The board suddenly announces that there will be a public hearing and a vote on a moratorium at the next (December 10) meeting.  Perhaps the sudden motivation to revisit the moratorium was catalyzed by the loss of one of the incumbents to Kelly Smith in the November election.  It is interesting that, after over a year of stalling, the town board now wants to hold a public hearing and vote before Kelly joins the board.

December 10, 2013:  As many expected, the town board votes the moratorium down. Details are here.

March 11, 2014:  Newly-elected board member Kelly Smith introduces a six-month fracking moratorium (resolution 14-025).  Kelly Smith, Glenn Morey, and Louie Sovocool voted in favor of the motion. and Rick Gamel and Sheldon Clark voted against it.  The motion to reconsider the moratorium passed.  A public hearing on the moratorium was set for April 8.

 

 

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Questions posed to Groton Town Board by GRAC members, December 13, 2011

GRAC members appreciate the opportunity to respectfully ask these questions of the Town Board and look forward within the next several Town Board meetings to obtaining and discussing the Board’s answers. This is not an exhaustive list of questions by any means, but it is hoped that they can contribute to a meaningful dialogue about the issue of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking) for methane gas (“natural” gas) in the Town of Groton.

We ask that these questions be included in the minutes for this meeting.

Based upon the New York State Department of Environmental Conservations’s current draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS) and draft regulations proposed for governing the High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (HVHF) drilling process for the production of natural gas, what are the Town of Groton’s current projections and/or plans for scenarios of

(a) light HVHF development

(b) moderate HVHF development, and

(c) intensive HVHF development

with respect to each of the following categories:

– Anticipated Town REVENUE from taxes & fees from drilling activity in the Town? What are the current scenarios under discussion?

– Necessary Town EXPENDITURES for, i.e., road maintenance, first responder training for hazardous materials and industrial sites, increases in Town’s insurance rates, the probable need for 24/7 policing due to — if Pennsylvania’s experience is any guide — an increase in traffic accidents and a doubling of the crime rate, especially with respect to public drunkenness & brawling, drugs, prostitution, drunk driving, etc.?

– Noise abatement, i.e., due to trucks, drilling rigs, compressor stations, etc.?

– Road use restrictions? Will any local roads under the Town’s jurisdiction be off-limits to drilling-related activity and traffic?

– Groton’s current Comprehensive Plan and zoning? Groton’s Town Code is supposed to use the Town’s Comprehensive Plan as a guide and is supposed to uphold the vision of the Comprehensive Plan. Groton’s Comprehensive Plan values Groton’s rural character above all and expresses concerns about already too-high truck traffic. Given that, can and will the Town of Groton restrict drilling activity to the several areas zoned for industrial activity?

In the Town of Groton there are 400 or less active gas leases. If each of those leases represents one household that means that less than 20% of Town residents hold gas leases and stand to profit from drilling on their properties. Given anticipated disruptions to the quality of Life in both the Town and Village of Groton due to the entirety of the process for High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing for methane gas (HVHF or fracking) such as

– the industrialization of our rural area

– extreme truck traffic

– noise

– air pollution

– possible water contamination

– increases in crime (i.e., public drunkenness, brawling, prostitution, drugs)

– effects upon property values

what does the Town Board see as the upsides to the anticipated arrival of HVHF? As a result of such disruptions, what improvements in our public infrastructure does the Board think all residents can expect to see as a benefit? For living under such duress can residents at the very least (hint, hint) expect to see, i.e., a new Community Center with a year-round indoor/outdoor Olympic swimming pool, year-round ice skating rink, exercise facilities, meeting rooms, and multi-use facilities for banquets, dances, marriages, receptions, and exercising with consideration given to the varied age groups in our community from infants to the elderly? For bearing such disruptions, we would also like to see new school facilities. How about a bike trail to Freeville/Dryden? What are the plans for upholding the quality of Life of the vast majority of Town and Village of Groton Residents who will bear the burden of HVHF but who will not see any income from it personally?

As a member of the Tompkins County Council of Governments (TCCOG) has the Town participated in TCCOG’s Task Force on Gas Drilling?

[From the Task Force’s website: The TCCOG Task Force on Gas Drilling seeks to network municipalities within Tompkins County, New York to manage the large amount of information surrounding drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica shales using the technique called hydraulic fracturing. The Task Force will explore avenues for municipalities to exert local control over gas drilling activities that affect the health, safety and well-being of their residents and resources. The Task Force refers to itself as TANG (Tompkins Addresses Natural Gas).]

– If so, what are the current results from such cooperation?

– If not, why not?

Has the Town submitted comments on the NYS DEC’s proposed drilling regulations?

Does the Town intend to submit comments by the January 11th deadline?

– If so, what is the nature of the comments?

– If not, why not?

Has the Board been in touch with Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) to anticipate gas drilling’s possible effects upon TCAT bus service in Groton upon which many residents rely?

What steps has the Board taken or will the Board take to shield Town of Groton’s taxpayers from liability arising from accidents in any facet of drilling operations which might affect members of the public on public properties or thoroughfares of the Town? We understand that New York is one of the few states which provides for 3rd party liability, which renders leaseholders liable for accidents on their lands. Will the Town hold leaseholding landowners liable to protect the Town itself from liability and associated expenses? In the event of an accident or an intentional disregard for regulations by gas companies and their subsidiaries and affiliates operating locally, could the Town itself be subject to 3rd party liability if it has not offered residents the most stringent protections available under the law?

If the Board has not enforced the most stringent protections available to it under the law, how can the Board act to shield taxpayers from liability concerns should drilling activity impact the drinking water supplies of Cornell University (Fall Creek), the Villages of Locke and Moravia, and the Town of Auburn (Owasco Inlet), and the Village of Groton’s well water supply — all located within the Town of Groton? Has there been any communication to the Town of Groton from, or by the Town of Groton with, any of the parties named above concerning their water sources in the Town of Groton? Will the Town of Groton work with those parties to protect their water supplies? Should the protections afforded the New York City and Syracuse water supplies apply to these local drinking water supplies, especially the wells which supply the Village of Groton its municipal water right here in the Town of Groton? If not, why not?

If the State begins to issue drilling permits what is the permitting process at the Town level? Is the Town allowed any say in the permitting process as currently proposed, with respect to NYS Home Rule enforcement of local land use laws? Does the provision for Extractive Industry by Special Use Permit in Groton’s Town Code allow the Town more control over the permitting process at the local level? Alternatively, does the provision for Extractive Industry by Special Use Permit in Groton’s Town Code allow the gas companies an end-run around Home Rule and local land use restrictions?

Can and will the Town of Groton fight to prevent the use of Eminent Domain to run gas pipelines?

[Newman]

What will the Groton Town Board do to protect the water supply of residents with private wells? If our well gets contaminated, the game’s over. We wouldn’t be able to irrigate our organic crops, wash vegetables, water animals, or even water ourselves. We would be forced to leave the area.

What will happen to the Town of Groton’s budget when people can’t pay their taxes and nobody wants to move to Groton?

[Daugherty]

As a retired person I am concerned about the effect of hydrofracking and compulsory integration on the value of my property. If the two water wells on my property were to become contaminated due to hydrofracking on land adjacent to my property, this would drastically affect my ability to sell my property if this were my desire in the future and would affect how my property would be appraised for tax purposes. This all filters down to how much tax money the Town would have available for maintaining infrastructure such as roads. How, as members of the Town Board, will you be able to continue to meet expenses if tax revenues are reduced because property values are lowered?

How, as members of the Town Board, will you maintain the “rural integrity” of the Town of Groton if hydrofracking is allowed? How will you maintain the rural integrity of the community if the town is invaded by large numbers of heavy trucks and invaded by many other environmentally detrimental effects of heavy industry — such as noise and bright lights in a normally dark area — which will affect not only humans but also wildlife in our normally rural community?

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