Helping to protect landowners right for the extraction of Natural Gas.

Helping to protect landowners' rights for the extraction of Natural Gas.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

EPA Metting--1st round

EPA meeting notebook
September 13, 2010, 9:00 pm

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Twitter FarkIt Type Size A A A Next Page1| 2| 3| 4Previous PageEnvironmentalists wield signs
Anti-drillers took all approaches to make their point Monday outside The Forum, but the most common was creative signage.

The assertions included "Kids can't drink gas," "Health before wealth," and a poster with a picture of Pennsylvania that said "State of gov't: Gasocracy." The statements were displayed on everything from hats, to pizza boxes, poster board and a large mock drilling rig.

Environmentalists of all ages came out for the rally, including a little girl wearing a sundress, with a sign hanging around her neck: "Welcome EPA. Thank you for protecting us."

Chenango Forks landowners support drilling
Kermit and Martha Kirby, of Chenango Forks, attended Monday's event because they want to see the gas drilling moratorium lifted to bring jobs back to New York, they said.

"We own 130 acres and believe me, we care about the land," Kermit said outside The Forum. "We love our land."

Both feel the state is in economic dire straits and drilling would bring revenue to ease the burden on taxpayers.

Green party lobbies for votes
During an impromptu rally Monday morning yards away from where the anti-drillers had voiced their opinion with Democrats leading the discussion, Green Party candidates rallied for votes -- and for a ban on hydraulic fracturing.

Howie Hawkins, gubernatorial candidate, and Cecile Lawrence of Apalachin, who is running for Kirsten Gillibrand's U.S. Senate seat, declared a vote for them would be a vote for a ban on fracking.

Lawrence declared she was fed up with Democrats, dubbing them "Republicans light," and urged environmentalists to vote for Green Party candidates.

"We're in a fight for our lives," she said. "We're up against the biggest companies in the world -- and we've got to beat them!"

Rallies clear up after hearing begins
The rally areas outside The Forum remained mostly empty Monday afternoon during the first session of the EPA hearing.

While it was predicted hundreds would remain outside, most activists were slated to speak during the forum.
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As speakers took their place inside at the podiums, few remained outside, including environmentalists who were dancing and playing the bongos as rain began to fall.

Students skip class to attend hearing
Ethan Roach of Corning skipped four classes Monday at Corning Community College to attend the state Environmental Protection Agency's public meeting about hydraulic fracturing held at The Forum.

Roach, an environmental science major, is against the practice. He is so passionate about his stance that he quit attending classes at Broome Community College when the school offered a class about the issue for students.

He attended the first session with friends Ryan Wall and Sean Grace, both students at Broome Community College.

This is the fourth public meeting Roach has attended during the last few months.

"I feel very strongly about this," he said.

Auxiliary police direct traffic
Sgt. William Spangenburg, a Binghamton Police Auxiliary volunteer, spent the bulk of Monday morning directing traffic at the intersection of State and Henry streets.

"It's been very quiet," Spangenburg said. "I really expected more traffic than this."

Spangenburg has been volunteering his time for the past five years.

"I love it," he said. "I do it for free."

Fewer people attend hearing than expected
Crowd estimates seemed off Monday morning as folks from across the region descended upon The Forum.

Initial estimates indicated approximately 8,000 people would attend the event. By 2:30 p.m., only about 700 people were in attendance.

For a brief time, it appeared as though there were more police, emergency personnel and media camped outside The Forum.

Hearing draws Norwegian TV station
The EPA meeting drew a considerable amount of media attention. EPA spokesman John Senn said camera crews were expected from CNN and the CBS Evening News, in addition to a large amount of local and regional media.

But the most interesting media representative came from overseas. Norwegian national television station TV2 sent a camera operator and reporter to take in the meeting as part of a series of stories on hydraulic fracturing.
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Torgeir Foss, the reporter, arrived in Binghamton on Sunday.

Statoil, Norway's largest oil and gas company, purchased about one-third of Chesapeake Energy's leased acreage in the Marcellus Shale region.

"It's an important story because Statoil is mainly owned by the Norwegian government," Foss said. "That means everyone in Norway is affected."

EPA meeting aids local business
Just a few feet from the barricaded protests, business was booming at the City Light Café on Washington Street this morning.

Restaurant manager Lori Snyder said protesters hailing from as far away as Oklahoma and Denmark came by for their morning coffee. By around 11 a.m., she estimated, business for the day had doubled.

"Whatever they're debating over there, the jobs have picked up here because we've even had to bring in extra people," she said, adding that more employees would be scheduled in anticipation the second day of the EPA hearings on Wednesday.

A spirited but friendly discussion broke out between tables of pro-drillers, anti-drillers and a table of Tea Party members, but Snyder said she isn't for or against drilling.

"I think there's benefits to both sides," she said.

Auto garage business off
Bob Crowe, owner of Bob Crowe Auto Services on Washington Street, had an unexpected and somewhat unwelcome vacation day on Monday.

The orange barrier surrounding the pro-drilling protest extended to the area directly in front of the garage's parking lot. Although "dribs and drabs" made their way to the garage -- located right next to The Forum -- Crowe said he lost about 80 percent of his business, and he anticipated losing $3,000 during the course of the day.

Crowe said he understands the need for the EPA meeting, but wishes it was happening somewhere else -- or, for that matter, anywhere else.

"I'm just in the exact wrong spot," Crowe said.

Nevertheless, Crowe said his business will survive the rough week, and the influx of out-of-town visitors and national media coverage could be good for the city as a whole.
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"Anything that brings people downtown is a good thing," Crowe said.

A quiet day for city police
Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski said there were no incidents outside of The Forum on Monday, but said the police presence will remain at similar levels at the meeting's remaining sessions on Wednesday.

"We're trained to deal with anything, and you just never know what could happen," Zikuski said. "Both sides have been very respectful, but we have to be ready for the unknown."

Police officers were visible on Washington and Henry streets throughout the day, with several keeping close watch on the staging areas reserved for pro- and anti-drilling rallies. As part of the EPA's deal with the department, the City of Binghamton will provide 12 officers and two supervisors for Wednesday's sessions.

'Two minutes,' crowd tells Hinchey
U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey received a hearty applause from members of the environmental crowd when he took the stage Monday afternoon.

But as his remarks stretched well past the two minutes allotted to other speakers -- finishing up at closer to ten -- some in the crowd proved to be sticklers for time management.

"Two minutes!" several members of the crowd shouted at the Congressman.

In an interview after his speech, Hinchey said he had asked event organizers about his time limit, and his understanding was that he could speak as long as he needed to.

"No, no, I wasn't stuck to two minutes," he said.

In an interview following his speaking appearance at Monday's meeting, U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey said the congressional passage of an exemption to federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing passed in the 2005 Energy Policy Act may have been intentionally corrupt.

"I asked the new leader of the EPA to look into this situation, and that's what stimulated these hearings," Hinchey said. "I was the one who brought their attention to this issue, and told them how important it is, and how they need to focus attention on it, and how they really need to correct what was done back in 2004 by the EPA in a very sort of inappropriate way -- a way that maybe even was corrupt, intentionally corrupt."

The exemption removed hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Hinchey is a co-sponsor of the "FRAC Act," which would repeal the exemption.

Dimock man brings tap water sample
Craig Sautner, of Dimock, Pa., brought a "sample" of his tap water in a gallon jug to the hearing. He was told by security that he could not bring the plastic container into The Forum for the evening session where he was scheduled to make a statement. The water, which looked like a mix of anti-freeze and apple cider, was contaminated, he said, after an energy company started drilling for natural gas on a neighbor's property.

The energy company delivers bottled water for drinking and municipal water for bathing, said Sautner.

"More studies have to be done until they can do it safely. We don't want any more wells contaminated. I wanted to sell my house and move to Florida, but now I can't," said Sautner.
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