The town of Schoharie expects to complete zoning changes aimed at banning heavy industry work — like hydrofracking and other oil and gas drilling — on Monday.
The town in April approved a one-year ban on activities considered “heavy industry,” including natural gas and petroleum exploration and extraction activities, underground storage of natural gas and disposal of natural gas or petroleum extraction, exploration and production wastes.
The moratorium will be lifted once the zoning changes get final approval; they have to be reviewed by the Schoharie County Planning Board first, Town Supervisor Gene Milone said.
The town met in September to outline several modifications to the zoning laws aimed at “tightening up” provisions to eliminate loopholes, Milone said.
Some local governments have been scrambling to react to gas company drilling plans that followed the discovery of lucrative amounts of natural gas buried in the Marcellus Shale formation that sits beneath part of New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio.
Marcellus Shale gas is already being extracted in large amounts from Pennsylvania, leading to a major, $750 million pipeline proposal that would transport the gas from Pennsylvania to a compressor station in Schoharie County.
By 2011, not long after the Marcellus Shale gas was discovered, gas drilling companies secured drilling leases on nearly 50 parcels in the Schoharie County towns of Sharon, Carlisle, Middleburgh, Schoharie, Cobleskill, Richmondville and Esperance.
The town of Sharon strengthened its land use codes and banned hydrofracking altogether and other towns are in various stages of looking at such laws.
In Schoharie, Milone said the zoning changes proposed don’t ban any specific activity. Activities that are disallowed specifically, and those that aren’t specifically mentioned, will require a special use permit process.
That process would entail a review by the zoning board and a final decision by the Town Board.
Milone is critical the county’s Board of Supervisors hasn’t taken up a position on the issue of heavy industry county wide.
“Every town was left to deal with this decision on their own. The county board refused to take a posture on this,” he said.
A public hearing is planned for 8 p.m. on Monday following the 7 p.m. Town Board meeting at 300 Main St. in Schoharie. Milone said planning board members will be on hand to answer questions from the public.