Opponents of high-volume, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in Portage may be in for a wait before the town board passes a moratorium.
Portage board members voted in June to accept language similar to a moratorium adopted by Sparta. However, the public hearing anticipated in July did not happen. Rather, attorney David Di Matteo presented a revised law for the board's consideration and suggested the town consider taking all actions short of passage. He advised the board could wait until the state released regulations for the hydrofracking industry and impose a moratorium at that time.
“The good news we’ve heard — at least at this point — is that you can regulate,” Di Matteo said, referring to a pair of cases making their way through the courts that favored home rule over state control. Di Matteo noted Portage lacks zoning regulations, but said the town could still address roads, water and other impacts through local laws.
However, opponents to gas extraction activities were reluctant to see further delays. Constituents began attending meetings in November 2011 and have continued to push the issue at every monthly meeting since.
“I don’t want to get stuck,” resident Jonathan Gates said. He worried that if the state released drilling regulations before Portage passed a moratorium, the town could be forced to allow some activities.
“You can’t be for or against anything until you know what the regulations are,” Councilman Dave Krenzer said. He noted that a poll of town residents found a majority favored a moratorium, but he added his concerns about passing a moratorium before the town board know what areas it needs to regulate — questions that won’t be fully answered until the state Department of Environmental Conservation releases its final impact statements.
Di Matteo encouraged the board to read the latest draft moratorium and consider the matter at a future board meeting.
“Take some time and read it,” he said. “That way you can tell me what I did wrong. I want to make sure I capture what you want.”