A public hearing on a proposed ban on hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling for gas and oil in the Town of Wales drew a standing-room crowd this week in Wales Community Center.
Councilman Michael Simon, with the help of Councilwoman Jude Hatrich and Town Attorney Ronald Bennett, drafted the measure, which emphasizes the rights of Wales residents.
The majority of those at Tuesday's meeting voiced approval of Town Board action on this type of drilling, which uses water-laced chemicals to blast the rock below the surface to release gas deposits.
A handful of residents, headed by activist Sara Buckley, raised the issue last November, saying drillers used chemicals that could pollute water wells.
At a board meeting earlier this month, Michael Hogan of Hogan Energy Consulting said that very little of the Marcellus Shale, where the gas is found, extends into Western New York and that horizontal drilling here would be too costly for energy companies since the layer should be at least 100 feet thick to make any money.
Wales, he said, already has 80 to 100 vertical gas wells, and no emergencies had been reported. Vertical gas drilling would not be affected by the proposed law.
Beverly and Robert Ruhland, of South Wales, favored drilling. They are on a waiting list to have a well drilled on their land.
Ruhland noted that he is within 5 miles of several similar wells and contamination is next to nothing. He contended that hundreds of cows are nearby and no one complains about their waste contamination.
But they were in the minority.
"It isn't worth it to contract with U.S. Energy [Development Corp. of Getzville] for a well on your property," said Carol Keem, of South Big Tree Road.
She said that the company drilled four wells, leaving a mess and not much money.
John Hilton, of Hunters Creek Road, a geologist, urged landowners to get a lease agreement if they deal with these companies and get it in writing that the company will get the land back to the previous grade.
Simon said the Town Board would vote on the new law next month at its next meeting.