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Increased oversight sought on drilling

Amid escalating concerns about the possibility of hydraulic fracturing in Southtowns communities, the Holland Town Board has approved a resolution supporting increased oversight on natural gas drilling in the town.

The resolution also urges Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the State Legislature to continue the moratorium on the controversial drilling practice "until such time that it can be determined that this process causes no discernible harm to our environment."

In the aftermath of concerns raised by residents during last month's board meeting, Supervisor Michael C. Kasprzyk said he met with National Fuel Gas, which leases a gas storage field in the town.

Kasprzyk, during a recent meeting, said that currently there is no drilling in the gas field, but 12 of 26 wells there were drilled using hydraulic fracturing -- some dating back to 1950.

All but one of the wells was drilled vertically,and the lone horizontally drilled well did not require fracking, he said.

Though all the wells are depleted, National Fuel Gas uses them for storage of natural gas.

Kasprzyk added that residents on Whitney Road were recently approached about leasing rights for gas wells on their property, but he does not believe anyone has signed an agreement.

He noted that neighboring Colden is home to a new vertical well that produces gas, within 2,000 feet of the Holland border.

In another matter, the Town Board agreed to toughen the zoning code near the town's two municipal wells to safeguard the water supply for the hamlet.

Any development in an area near the well head area -- encompassing the municipal well on Water Street and a newer well in the Town Park -- will need to pass scrutiny of both the Planning and Town boards, proving that the project will not impact the water supply.

Also, residents or businesses applying for either a building or special-use permit will be affected by the new restrictions, Kasprzyk said.|

Currently, the zoning code states no restrictions for building or drilling in the well head area. The two wells serve 400 homes, as well as schools and businesses.