[UPDATED] Week ahead: meetings on fracking, entertainment licenses, and city budget

UPDATE is at the end of this article.

The Rochester Planning Commission meets tonight (June 11), and a proposed one-year hydraulic fracturing moratorium in the city is on its agenda.

City Council referred the moratorium proposal to the Planning Commission, which will issue an advisory opinion. The commission’s agenda says the moratorium would apply to “certificates of zoning compliance, building permits, and variances relating to the exploration and extraction of natural gas, commonly known as hydrofracking.”

Council member Loretta Scott, the proposal’s sponsor, says she wants the moratorium to cover drilling as well as supporting industries, such as the manufacturing or storage of fracking fluids. Currently, those operations could locate in the city’s industrial zones.

The Planning Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 30 Church Street. – Jeremy Moule

You may also have been following this one: New Life Presbyterian Church goes before the Rochester Planning Commission tonight (June 11) to ask for a special permit to allow live theater in the church. The Bread and Water Theatre group has been doing its shows at New Life for many years, but was only recently informed that it needed a permit. The group’s artistic director, J.R. Teeter, has been fighting the requirement. He says the city’s enforcement is uneven and unfair. Partly because of the Bread and Water situation, City Hall is looking to overhaul entertainment licensing.

Tonight’s meeting is at 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall, 30 Church Street. – Christine Carrie Fien

Rochester City Council, which is continuing its review of Mayor Tom Richards’ 2012-2013 proposed budget, will hold another daylong series of hearings on Tuesday (June 12). The hearings, which are open to the public, will take place in Council Chambers at City Hall, 30 Church Street.

Tuesday’s schedule:

  • 9:35 a.m. to 10:50 a.m.: police department budget;
  • 10:55 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: fire department;
  • 1:30 p.m. to 2:05 p.m.: emergency communications;
  • 2:10 p.m. to 3:10 p.m.: information technology;
  • 3:15 p.m. to 5 p.m.: neighborhood and business development.

City Council will vote on the budget, as well as the Rochester school district’s budget on Tuesday, June 19.

– Christine Carrie Fien

One comment

  1. Sandra L. Frankel · · Reply

    I want to commend Loretta Scott for her leadership on this important issue, and the Planning Commission for its unanimous vote to recommend a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and related issues. I hope that City Council will support this recommendation in order to give the City time to consider what steps it may want to take to protect the community’s water resources, infrastructure, public health, and quality of life.

    Last year, the Town of Brighton enacted the first moratorium in Monroe County, and others have followed. It’s not just about drilling and water consumption; it’s also about disposal of drilling waste and waste water that contains toxic and hazardous material, about damage to roads, about water contamination, and about the impact on property values and quality of life in problem areas.

    All of Monroe County lies over the Utica Shale, which may become an attractive source of natural gas in the future depending upon the market and other factors. New state Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) regulations will apply to us as well as to the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier communities in the Marcellus shale. Note that we get some of our drinking water from Hemlock Lake.

    The NYSDEC has already prohibited hydrofracking in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds,but Rochester’s watershed does enjoy the same protections. The oil and gas companies and the NYSDEC must ensure that the hydraulic fracturing process is safe for us too, before permits are granted by the state.

    Understandably, mining natural gas has appeal because of the lure of new jobs, increased revenue, lower cost fuel that is cleaner than coal, and decreased dependence on imported oil; however, the reality is not as rosy, and problems abound. The industry must solve its problems first,and the state must verify that solutions work and provide rigorous oversight and enforcement before approving any permits. We are not there yet.

    Local governments are wise to adopt a moratorium to protect their communities until we know that the process and related activities are safe.

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