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Source: WSYR-TV Syracuse

Hydrofracking meeting relocated to Syracuse, then postponed

Posted: August 11, 2010
Originally Published: August 10, 2010

Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - First it was scheduled for Thursday in Binghamton; then it was moved to the Oncenter in Syracuse; and now a hydrofracking public meeting has been postponed.

Thousands of people were expected to attend, both for and against the controversial natural gas drilling method. Onondaga County wasn't approached until yesterday to host the meeting hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Binghamton University was the original host, but the quoted cost of $6,000 was increased to $39,000 when the school learned an increased number of attendees were expected. A university spokesman told NewsChannel 9 the price went up when school officials realized the magnitude of the meetings and the safety and security measures they would have to take. The EPA then looked for a new spot within 40 miles and couldn't find one and so they worked out a deal with the Oncenter.

Syracuse University Professor of Earth Sciences Don Seigel was all set to testify on the benefits of hydrofracking, when he heard the news that the event had been postponed. "I had to spend some time to craft a two-minute statement," Seigel said. "Professors tend to talk a lot, so two minutes is a short period of time."

On the flip side of the issue, Dereth Glance of Citizens Campaign for the Environment was scheduled to speak against the method. "The vast majority of people we know want cradle to grave approach on the analysis EPA is doing at congress' request on hydraulic fracturing," Glance said.

Onondaga County agreed Monday at 5 p.m. to house the meeting. The Oncenter could have easily handled the 1,200 people who had registered. A spokesperson says they then learned there could really be between 2,000 and 12,000.

Onondaga County did not feel it could arrange on short notice the necessary security for potential protests, rallies, and crowds outside the meeting itself, and the EPA said it respects and understands that decision.

"I think this could get very feisty. I'd hope the environmental groups who are opposed would view this as an opportunity to get their view out in a way of decorum," said Seigel.

The EPA says its three previous hydrofracking meetings in other states were successful. The agency is committed to holding this final one.

"We're hopeful that it will be in Syracuse, at least one upstate city," Glance said.

The Deputy County Executive for Physical Services told NewsChannel 9 that the department needed time to talk to the Mayor's office, City Police, and every other agency involved in an event of this size. They wouldn't even have had time to process permits for the people who wanted to rally. County Executive Joanie Mahoney is working to make the event happen in Syracuse in September but the EPA won't guarantee that. They just say it will be somewhere in Upstate New York.