July 6, 2011 —
What is an Equivalent Single Axel Load or ESAL? It’s the basic method that may be used by some Sullivan County towns to determine if truck traffic related to a given project, whether it is gas drilling or construction of a mall, is likely to damage town roads, and if so, what the town should collect from the responsible party to repair those damages.
Representatives from the Sullivan County towns of Lumberland, Highland, Tusten, Cochecton, Delaware, Callicoon and Rockland have been working in the Multi-Municipal Task Force to create a road-use-agreement for about three years.
On June 30, the proposal was unveiled for the public at Sullivan West High School, and a public hearing followed. Steve Messmer, the project manager with Delta Engineering, which created the proposed agreement and drafted the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) that accompanied it, explained that as part of the agreement towns would determine if trucks related to any particular project threatened local roads and the community by measuring weight, the volume of trips, as well as the make up and expected life of the roadway. The towns would also assess such things as the safety of the proposed truck routes and whether they passed by school buildings, etc.
During the public hearing, several residents said they were concerned that local contractors would be unduly burdened with new paperwork or fees if the towns adopt the road use agreement. Questions were not answered during the hearing but afterward, Messmer told The River Reporter that local loggers, farmers and contractors would not produce nearly enough ESALS to be caught in the “fishnet” that had been created to snare only projects with very numerous truck trips.
During the public hearing, several residents found fault with the DGEIS. Bruce Ferguson of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy said that he was troubled that the actual number of truck trips per well, which could run up to 4,000, had not been mentioned. Larysa Dyrszka, a retired pediatrician and member of the group Sullivan Area Citizens for Responsible Energy Development, said that the possible impacts of such truck traffic on health should have been part of the DGEIS. Others made related comments about the possible impacts various aspects of gas drilling.
After the hearing, Messmer said that his company has worked on many road use agreements that were triggered by other industries, such as large wind farms or shopping mall construction. He said gas drilling was a peripheral issue to the road use agreement, which would cover any activity that produced a high enough number of ESALs.
On a related note, Andy Boyar, supervisor of the Town of Highland, said, “Support of a measure regulating a heavy industrial use is not to be taken as an endorsement of the underlying heavy industrial use.”
Another matter of concern brought up several people was that the written comment period for the DGEIS runs only until July 18, which is not enough time to examine the 500-page document created by Delta.
Additionally, seven county grass roots organizations have written to the task force asking them to withhold approval of the road use agreement until the entirety of new state rules regarding gas drilling are unveiled at the end of July.
Residents can submit comments to Mark Sweeney, Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna LLP, 0ne Commerce Plaza, Albany, NY, 12260. The email is firstname.lastname@example.org  and the phone number is 518/487-7600.