The Hartwick Town Board approved a moratorium on natural gas drilling by a 3-2 vote Monday after nearly 90 minutes of public comment.
The comments occurred in a public hearing prior to the town board’s December meeting. The crowd, which packed the hearing room, was fairly evenly split between those opposed to the proposed moratorium and those in favor of it. Debate was lively, but generally respectful.
The moratorium, adopted as Town of Hartwick Local Law No. 1 of 2013, places an eight year moratorium on natural gas and petroleum mining in the town. The main reason given for the moratorium was that it would give the town time to finish drafting its new zoning law.
The moratorium can also be extended by another four months by motion of the town board at a regular board meeting.
Many of those opposed to the eight month moratorium argued that it would be redundant, as New York already has a moratorium on natural gas drilling in place, and warned that Hartwick enacting its own moratorium could lead to lawsuits.
“Why duplicate it for nothing,” said Hartwick resident, and Village of Cooperstown Police Chief, Mike Covert.
They also said that drilling was unlikely to come to Hartwick any time soon, due to the area’s geology, while also touting the economic benefits that drilling could have for the area. Potential negative impacts were also downplayed by some opponents.
Most of those supporting the moratorium focused on the dangers that drilling could have to the area’s water supplies.
“Here the whole town is sitting on an aquifer,” said Lee Robbins, health officer for the Town of Hartwick, who expressed concern that drilling sites would not be maintained after companies left. “To poison it, it’s something that would not be able to be reversed.”
The value of the area’s scenic beauty, as well as agriculture and the tourism industry were also touted by those supportive of the moratorium.