Crowd tells O’Mara, Palmesano to keep fracking out of Finger Lakes

Gwen Chamberlain

Over 100 people turned out Monday evening for a town hall meeting with Sen. Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano at the Penn Yan Village Hall.

For about two hours, the lawmakers listened to several comments from people opposed to hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale in the Finger Lakes.

The crowd applauded at various times when people made specific comments such as urging the two lawmakers to support a ban of hydrofracking in the area.

“The gas isn’t going anywhere. We need to be smart and wait for a proven way to take it out. Let’s do it safely and not jump the gun,” said Michelle Morehouse.

O’Mara said he wants to hear from the experts within the Department of Environmental Conservation on whether the practice can be done safely. If he is convinced it can be done safely, he will support the practice. He said he also wants to learn more about a proposed 4,000 ft. set back from a lake.

“Not many people in this room have confidence in the DEC,” said one man near the end of the meeting.

“We’re not asking you to oppose fracking in New York State. We’re asking you to please keep it from the Finger Lakes watershed,” said Lynn Wuytowicz.

O’Mara said much of the information he’s hearing is anecdotal, but added, “I’m very concerned about strong oversight of this process.”

Explaining that he has traveled to areas in Pennsylvania where hydrofracking is being done, he said he hasn’t seen overwhelming ruination.

Palmesano said he has toured some areas of Pennsylvania with a high school science teacher who is opposed to hydrofracking.

“I’m not an expert,” he said, adding he has confidence in the DEC, but he added, “It (decision about permitting hydrofracking) has to be based on science.”

Robert Gillespie urged the two to do some research into what he said were deceptive practices by the gas companies in Pennsylvania.

Vaughn Baker of Jerusalem asked the two to commit to sponsoring legislation in their individual houses to protect the Finger Lakes Watershed. Neither responded to his request.

Other topics that the crowd commented on during the meeting which lasted nearly two hours included:

LP Gas Storage

People warned about the plan for storage of liquid propane and natural gas in salt caverns in the town of Reading, near the southwest shoreline of Seneca Lake. One woman said she has a list of potential tourism business investors who are cautious of putting their money in to business in this area because of the possible negative impact of the facility. O’Mara said the DEC is reviewing the project and its potential environmental impacts now.


Diane Lovejoy asked how public school districts are expected to meet the educational demands of state and federal programs within the financial cuts that have been made. Palmesano said one of the legislature’s biggest challenges is the balance of state aid between upstate and downstate school districts.

Wine in Grocery Stores

O’Mara agreed with Sharon Winslow, who said the state should be looking for revenue from wine sales in grocery stores.

O’Mara said, “I agree, but the governor has been mum on the issue.” About a month ago, the governor commented that he doesn’t support wine in grocery stores. He said he complimented the governor for serving New York wines at a reception he attended at the executive mansion recently. O’Mara said after he thanked the governor for serving wine from his district, he said it would be nice to see the wines sold in grocery stores. The governor did not respond to O’Mara’s comment. “He said nothing,” said O’Mara.

Following the meeting, O’Mara said he’s not encouraged about the potential for success if he introduces legislation again in the coming year. He introduced legislation that would permit wine sales in grocery stores last year. He noted the success of such legislation depends on the executive branch’s support since the Assembly does not support it.

He said he’s also learned that there isn’t as much support in the Senate as he’d previously thought.