EPA Cancels NY Fracking Hearing Over Crowd, Security Worries

An all-day hearing on gas drilling via hydraulic fracturing scheduled to be held in Syracuse, New York tomorrow has been postponed over crowd control concerns. According to a report in The New York Times, it was expected that as many as 8,000 people would turn up at the hearing, which was to take place at the OnCenter Complex Convention Center.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had already changed the hearing’s venue once. It had originally been scheduled to take place at Binghamton University, but according to the Times, the university had set conditions the EPA said were unacceptable. Apparently, the school had first assigned the hearing a room with no air conditioning, and then wanted to up the fee paid by the agency to $32,000 from $6,000.

Binghamton officials cited security and crowd concerns for the demand of a higher fee. According to the Times, Binghamton determined that as many as 8,000 people could show up for the hearing, while the EPA had expected about 1,200 participants.

Now the hearing is being scratched because Onondaga County officials expressed concern that they had not been given enough time to prepare security in anticipation of rallies and protests at the event, the Times said. The EPA is scrambling to find another site so that the hearing can take place in September.

The EPA hearing was one of several the agency had scheduled around the country as part of a study into the environmental and health impacts of hydraulic fracturing. As the Times points out, the EPA has successfully held well-attended hearings in other states.

In New York. hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, has been particularly controversial. Gas drillers have been eyeing massive deposits in the state’s Marcellus shale region, which includes the entire Catskills watershed that provides New York City with all of its drinking water. People there are worried that drilling could pollute the watershed.

Just last week, the New York State Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill that would place a moratorium on granting new drilling permits in the state until May 2011. The bill still has to be voted on the state assembly before it becomes law.

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