If gas and oil companies get a grip on some counties in southern New York, Bill Hecht says they won't stop there.
“Once they get their foot in the door, once they start drilling, it just ain't going to stop them,” said the former geologist and gas drill worker from Cayuga County.
While the state Department of Environmental Conservation continues to study the potential effects and prepares responses for close to 80,000 comments it received, feelings are mixed about the potential ruling.
The decision is anticipated by the end of the year, DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said.
“Our review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing is continuing and no decisions have been made,” she wrote in an emailed response.
Furthermore, the New York Times reported that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration is pursuing a plan to allow hydrofracking in portions of several struggling New York counties along the Pennsylvania border, though only in communities that express support for the technology.
Hydraulic fracturing involves mixing chemicals with millions of gallons of water and pumping the mixture into wells to create fractures in rock formations that allow natural gas to be harvested. It is not permitted in the state while the DEC studies the potential environmental impact.
Hydrofracking proponents have pointed to the economic benefits that it would bring to communities, while opponents point to air and water pollution among other issues as reasons for banning it.
Opponent Nancy Grove, owner of the Old Path Farm in New Hartford, said she could take or leave the department's response.
“I do not trust the DEC to have our safety and health in mind. Their assessment has no health-impact assessment,” she said. “It matters because various politicians are listening to the DEC, but I, myself, do not need their reports to be convinced one way or another.”
On the opposite side, New Hartford farmer Brymer Humphreys hopes hydrofracking will move forward.
“I hope they can put the issue to rest,” he said. “I hope it would bring financial benefits to the individuals and, consequently, the area to create spending in businesses.”
Hecht said he's neither for nor against hydrofracking until the state can show him it has a better plan for oversight funding.
“Just raising the permit fees and just taxing production is not enough because those two funding sources can - and already have been - used as a weapon against anybody that has environmental concerns,” he said.
Hecht referred to Lenape Resources shutting down wells in the Livingston County town of Avon due to the town board adopting a moratorium on gas development. The vertical wells weren't subject to new regulations being developed for horizontal wells, according to the Associated Press.
Page 2 of 2 - When a company shuts off the wells, Hecht said royalty checks stop and people inevitably go back to their local governments in hopes of getting those checks back because they depend on them - and so can local government.
“You've got to have a funding source, a long-term funding source,” he said, suggesting that a tax upon each acre of land within the lease could be a possibility.
The money collected then could be used to employ experts to monitor the sites, Hecht said.
If not, people will receive those royalty checks and spend them, including state and local government, he said.
“Ten, 20, 30, 40 years, we're going to wake up, and where is the money going to come from for oversight?”