In a phone conversation initiated by Breathing, Gary Maas, Town of Cochecton Supervisor, responded to an email from an official in the Town of Cochecton which was published this morning by Breathing.
According to Supervisor Maas, “The Town of Cochecton has no official position on gas drilling, either pro or con. I really wish that if an official in the Town of Cochecton has objections or questions about what the Town is doing, he or she would raise that with the Town before going public. The Town’s position is to protect our people. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) is the group that controls drilling in all our towns. We just want to make sure we’ve done what we can in the Town to keep compressors quiet, make sure we’ve got protective setbacks and address whatever road issues we can. During this zoning review process, we’re looking at a whole range of issues including private cemeteries, windmills, cell towers. Basically, we’re looking to update our zoning.”
When Breathing asked if the contemplated zoning changes would permit drilling to occur in roughly 90% of the Town of Cochecton, Supervisor Maas said, “The drilling companies could have drilled in those areas before. We cannot exempt drilling.”
Further, Supervisor Maas assured Breathing he will provide clarifications of the zoning changes being reviewed by the Town.
As readers of Breathing are aware, there are other legal opinions which suggest that Towns do have the right to exempt zoning in certain areas but are not permitted to control actual drilling operations. Additionally, changes are being considered by the NYS Assembly which would make those Town powers explicit. (NYS Assembly Bill 10633, is a “Home Rule” bill which makes explicit the notion that local governments have and will have zoning control over where gas drilling occurs in their jurisdictions no matter what other powers of jurisdiction a State authority may claim.)
With regard to the NYS Assembly’s initiative, Supervisor Maas said, “That would be really good if that happens.”
Because the email received by Breathing this morning was written by a public official, was widely distributed both publicly and privately, was signed and carried this instruction, “Please pass the information along to all others you know who may be concerned,” Breathing published it without obtaining other official opinions of its contents. Many thanks to Ms. Seldin who contacted Mr. Maas and alerted Breathing that an alternate view of the zoning considerations was on offer.
That being said, it appears that both Supervisor Maas and the email writer agree, that as matters stand, a large chunk of Cochecton is susceptible to drilling.
Breathing continues to welcome on-the-record clarifications of the matter from Cochecton officials interested in keeping Cochecton residents informed as the zoning review moves forward and also will consider editorial points of view which address Town zoning prerogatives.