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Holland plans law on gas drilling

With fears of natural gas drilling earning headlines both locally and nationally, the Holland Town Board has decided to frame a law that will require drillers to have a special-use permit before any excavation begins.

Supervisor Michael Kasprzyk said the law will encompass all drilling, including hydrofracking, the controversial method of forcing natural gas from shale rock by pumping water and chemicals into the ground.

"For seven or eight months, gas wells and fracking has been a front-page issue," Kasprzyk said. "The board felt that the one common factor concerning people is the contamination of wells. We thought we'd do something, since every person in Holland depends on wells for their water."

Among the features of the new law will be a contingency requiring all wells within 1,500 feet of a proposed drilling site to be tested prior to any drilling activity. Kasprzyk said this would provide a "baseline" so that if anything happens to contaminate a well, there would be proof that it had been a good source of water.

The supervisor added that no one has approached the town about hydrofracking. A recent presentation by National Fuel Gas representatives showed that the portion of the Marcellus Shale beneath Holland is too thin and too close to the surface to be desirable.

For natural gas to be extracted from the earth, the shale needs to be deep in the ground where it is under more pressure, those representatives said.

The proposed law has been referred to the Planning Board for changes,if necessary.

Kasprzyk said it will come back to the Town Board in January and, if approved, a public hearing will be scheduled before the Town Board votes it into law.

In related news, the board heard Wednesday night that construction is under way for the control building associated with the town's first back-up well. Located in the Town Park behind the community center, the building will house the electric and chlorination functions for the well.

Officials expect the well to be online by spring. Currently, more than 400 water customers in the hamlet rely on a single well built in 1931.