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DEC Hydrofracking Hearing


It may look like déjà vu to passers by tomorrow outside of the Forum Theatre. As it did just over a year ago, the debate over hydrofracking, and all of its passion, is returning to Binghamton.

This time, rather than the EPA, it's the DEC holding a set of public hearings on the controversial natural gas drilling technique. There will be two sessions, from 1 until 4 and again from 6 until 9. Doors open an hour before the hearings begin and the 3 minute time slots will be on a first-come basis. Politicians and agency representatives will be allowed to speak first.

Scott Kurkoski, an attorney with Levene, Gouldin and Thompson, represents the Joint Landowners Coalition which supports natural gas drilling. He says that while landowners are pleased that the process is moving forward, they are concerned that making the regulations too stringent may discourage gas companies from signing leases, or make the terms less favorable. Kurkoski says some drilling opponents don't want to see hydrofracking under any circumstances. "I call them anti-industrialists. People just don't want to have new industry come into our state. First of all, that's not reasonable. Second, there are so many opportunities that this will bring, people are looking for work now. Look at the unemployment figures that we have now. We're seeing those jobs go to other states. We're seeing those opportunities go to other states, while our state continues in this downward spiral. This is the one thing on our horizon that we have that can really turn this thing around."

Walter Hang has been a leading opponent to the DEC's current regulatory plan but says he could support drilling with the proper safeguards. Hang objects to rules that would allow frackwater to be sent to sewage treatment plants. And, is concerned about the possible contamination of private drinking water wells. Hang says, "Unfortunately, the revised draft is still totally incomplete. It's inadequate, it can't protect public health. And that's how come I've written a coalition letter that has more than 3300 signatories. We're calling on Governor Cuomo to withdraw the draft, send it back to the drawing board yet again. And let's see if we can get it right this time around."

Hang is collecting signatures through his website, Toxics Targeting dot com, that asks Cuomo to rescind the proposed rules and start over. In it, he cites 17 specific concerns with the draft policy. Kurkoski says he expects the DEC to issue final regs next year and start issuing drilling permits. Hang says he doesn't anticipate drilling to begin until after 2012.