BY JEREMY MOULE
During its June meeting, the Rochester Planning Commission will discuss a one-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the city.
City Council has referred the moratorium proposal, which is sponsored by Council member Loretta Scott, to the Planning Commission. The commission meets at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, June 11, at City Hall, 30 Church Street. The agenda is available here. The commission will make a recommendation to City Council, which should vote on the moratorium at its June 19 meeting.
Rochester sits on top of the Utica shale formation, which is thought to contain large natural gas reservoirs. But it’s not likely that drilling companies will target the city. In a sense, the moratorium would be a way for city officials to show they are concerned about fracking. A moratorium would, however, allow the city to prepare, should drilling interest develop, Scott says.
“Why leave it to chance?” Scott says.
Technically, the moratorium would apply to city permits and approvals that would be necessary for drilling. Scott says she also wants it to cover supporting industries, such as the manufacturing or storage of fracking fluids. Those operations could locate in the city’s industrial zones.
Rochester would follow the lead of communities like Brighton, which have passed moratoriums even though they aren’t likely to see drilling.
Communities across the state have been passing moratoriums on fracking or rewriting zoning laws to exclude gas drilling as an acceptable land use; citizens often push for the laws. For some communities, like Dryden in Tompkins County, the bans are urgent since they have been targeted for shale drilling.
Some Rochester officials and residents are also worried about the effects fracking could have on the city’s water supplies: Hemlock and Canadice Lakes. The lakes are located toward the edge of the Marcellus Shale formation.
“We do need local community protection, and we do need to protect our resources,” says Nedra Harvey of R-Cause, a local anti-fracking organization.