This coming Thursday the Environmental Protection Agency was scheduled to hold a public hearing on hydraulic fracturing as a method for removing natural gas from shale deposits. The hearing, the fourth and last in a series of hearings being held across the country, was originally scheduled for the Binghamton, New York area. Binghamton is an area where natural gas is just beginning to make an economic impact.
On Tuesday, August 9th, the EPA announced that the hearing was being moved to the OnCenter in Syracuse, New York. The EPA took no responsibility and blamed Binghamton University for raising the price on the event. The problem was, as I read over many days in local papers, that the original location was not big enough. The Events Center at the university was not available due to the floor being refinished. The West Gym, which was available, does not have air conditioning and the EPA said that would be an issue of public safety.
The other issue is that there are approximately 6,200 people who are not speaking at the actual hearing who will be in attendance – demonstrations by both pro-fracking and anti-fracking factions. The costs to ensure the safety of all – those at the EPA hearings, those demonstrating for and against fracking – is a lot. The university, from all I can tell, was charging the EPA for all costs so that the university remained cost neutral on the event.
Just one day after the EPA announced the hearing would move to Syracuse, the hearing has been postponed. Syracuse was not able, on such short notice, to guarantee the safety of those that would be in attendance.
While I think that the hearing is a necessity and should be held in the Southern Tier, preferably in Binghamton, I do think that the EPA needs to realize that the venue is the least of the costs for the hearing. The EPA should realize it has to assume the costs for the safety of all those in attendance, not just those who are speaking at the hearing.