BRANT — The Brant Town Board took the first steps to adopting new local laws regarding hydrofracking at its July 8 meeting.
The proposed law, ‘Horizontal Drilling Law,’ was presented to the Brant town board by the planning board, who offered a number of reasons for its necessity.
“Chapter 92, Horizontal Drilling Law, deals with a prohibition of hydrofracking within town limits,” Planning Board Chairman Joseph Ostrowski said in a letter addressed to the board. “While the probability of drilling in Marcellus Shale within town limits is remote, the possibility exists. However, the use of existing and abandoned wells to store or dispose of hydrofracking production waste is a real possibility and poses an extreme danger to the ecosystem of the town of Brant.
“In a recent article published in the Buffalo News, June 22, 2014, it was noted that Oklahoma has seen an unprecedented surge in earthquakes. The 30-year average of quakes was two at 3.0 magnitudes. In 2013, they experienced 109 tremblers of 3.0 or higher. In 2014, there have already been over 200. Scientists say the most likely cause is the recent increase in underground injection wells drilled by the oil and gas industry. There are reports of two abandoned wells within Western New York being used for disposal of contaminated water,” the letter noted.
Ostrowski also stressed the town’s dependency on and need for fresh water, for not only its residents but also its agricultural growth and sustainability.
“The town of Brant is highly dependent on fresh uncontaminated water for agricultural and human consumption. To maintain the quality of food produced within the town, as well as our economic stability, we need to prohibit the disposal of contaminated water within our town. As a good neighbor, we need to prevent the contamination of Lake Erie from polluted water stored in our town.”
The proposed law states that its intent is to “maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the town water supply.
“It is the goal of this law that the discharge of toxic pollutants in toxic amounts into the ground water be prohibited,” it continued.
The law further states that “no land in the town shall be used: To conduct any exploration for natural gas and/or petroleum: To drill horizontally any well for natural gas; to transfer, store, process or treat natural gas; or to dispose of natural gas exploration or production wastes; or to erect any derrick, building or other structure; or to place any machinery or equipment for any such purposes.”
Supervisor Leonard Pero added that it would be a good idea to get the ball rolling on a law, if for nothing else but to protect residents.
“My feeling on this is, it doesn’t hurt to adopt this law,” Pero said. “We don’t have Marcellus Shale in our area, but this is a protection for us. I do believe that this law would be a protection for our town and our area.”
Town Attorney William Trask pointed out that, although Pero was prepared to move forward with a public hearing for next month, the town would have to start the State Environmental Quality Review process first. Trask also pointed out that the town could be prepared to go to a public hearing in September.
“After having the chance to review all of this, I thought the most interesting part, and frankly, something that I hadn’t thought of, was the prohibition against disposing of contaminated water, which is a huge byproduct of hydro-fracking, in our wells that are not currently being used or are abandoned,” Trask said. “That could possibly expose our aquifer and underground hydraulic system to those chemicals and no one really has an idea what’s in those chemicals that are added to the water for hydrofracking itself, because the drilling companies are not required to disclose that information. I think that, in a lot of ways, that was a very meritorious part of this law.”
“I do think that this is something we should move along,” Trask said.
Former town councilman Daniel Kujawinski, who sponsored a local law to ban fracking in Brant, in order to protect the aquifers during his time on the town board, believed that there are many plausible reasons for such a law.
Citing a draft report by CRA Engineering from July 2008, using census figures, “there are approximately 200 water service connections in the town of 710 housing units” Kujawinski said, “so over 70 percent of the housing units depend on well water. Once an aquifer is polluted, it’s nearly impossible to clean.”
“A large number of town residents depend on well water for the water supply. There are many other reasons for a ban, e.g., our location is an active earthquake zone, a UB study, and others, finding a high degree of radioactivity in tons of waste water that would have to be disposed of, and more,” he concluded.
Before coming to a public hearing, the proposed law will also be given to Code Enforcement Officer Gary Brecker for review.
In other board news:
– The speed limit on Route 249 coming out of North Collins to Versailles Road was set at 45 mph.
– A 2008 Ford Expedition truck was declared surplus and will be replaced this fall, on state bid. It was noted that the cost to repair the truck exceeded its blue book value.
The next town of Brant meeting will take place on August 12, at the Brant town hall.