Shame on the EPA for Changing a Meeting on Hydraulic Fracturing the Night Before it’s Scheduled (Updated)

UPDATE (Aug 11): Below is my original post, in all of its flawed glory. A confession: I’ve made a mistake, and I prefer to correct the record right here, up high for everyone to see. Part of my “rant” below is based on a simple and stupid mistake I made–the original EPA meeting was scheduled for August 12, not August 10. I had it incorrectly listed in my calendar. So my original contention that the EPA changed the meeting the night before was plain wrong. Second, it seems there was a dispute between the EPA and Binghamton University where the event was to be held about the amount of money needed to handle a larger than anticipated crowd. The number BU requested went from $6,000 to $40,000 and the EPA resisted and did not have much of a choice but to try and change the venue. Yes, I can point out that the EPA has no problem wasting $1.5M of taxpayer money on a new study of hydraulic fracturing when they just did one a few years ago and hey, what’s another $36K? But I won’t. I’ll simply say,  I was wrong. When you make a mistake in public, you need to correct it in public.

Here is part of an email I received from the EPA about the canceled meeting:

After months of work organizing the Hydraulic Fracturing Study public meeting in New York, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that the meeting, originally scheduled for Thursday, August 12 at Binghamton University and subsequently moved to the Syracuse Oncenter Complex Convention Center has been canceled. The Agency now intends to hold the public meeting in upstate New York in September and will announce the date and location as soon as it is confirmed.

EPA was forced to cancel the August 12th meeting following a conversation this morning with the Onondaga County Executive’s office, during which concerns were raised about the ability to complete security preparations for the meeting on such short notice. The last minute change to Syracuse was caused by Binghamton University taking several actions to dissuade EPA from holding the meetings at their campus including increasing the cost from $6,000 to almost $40,000. As plans for the Binghamton meeting unraveled, EPA explored opportunities with Broome County officials in Binghamton, including the convening of the meeting at the Arena.  They suddenly and inexplicably pulled out of negotiations with EPA. The Agency searched a 40 mile radius from Corning to Ithaca to Cortland to Oneonta but no options were available for Thursday.  The Oncenter was the only viable choice, but Onondaga County officials did not feel they could arrange the necessary security for protecting people and property with ongoing rallies outside the meeting site.  EPA respects and understands their decision.

We are extremely disappointed that the cancellation will leave thousands of people on both sides of the issue who had planned to attend this meeting in this inconvenient and difficult position. EPA and its contractors have left no stone unturned in finding a suitable location and we did everything within our control to make the meeting scheduled for August 12 a successful one.

Also in the email they promise to reschedule the meeting somewhere in the Upstate area in the month of September. We’ll let you know when plans have been firmed up.

The original post from August 10:

A favorite tactic of those who don’t like opposition and fear they may get an earful at a scheduled public meeting is to (a) bully and use intimidation against those with an opposing viewpoint, or failing that, (b) simply change the venue at the last minute to prevent large numbers of people from finding you. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can’t use option “a” without severe consequences, so they’ve opted for option “b” instead.

The EPA, after determining that hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is a safe practice just a few years ago, during the Bush Administration, has decided to re-open the matter now that the EPA is populated by far left appointees from the Obama Administration. Their goal is to illegally assume power to regulate natural gas drilling in the United States through the back door by saying that hydraulic fracturing uses ground water and “may” pollute water supplies (something that has never happened, by the way), therefore the EPA must get involved. It’s a sham and a naked power grab.

So the EPA scheduled four meetings around the country to listen to arguments for and against hydraulic fracturing, scheduled in Fort Worth, Texas – July 8, 2010; Denver, Colorado – July 13, 2010; Canonsburg, PA – July 22, 2010; and Binghamton, NY – August 12, 2010 (where this author lives). Last week I registered to attend. Last night I got the following email which arrived at 10:45 pm:

EPA has changed the venue for the Binghamton, New York, public meeting on EPA’s upcoming hydraulic fracturing study. The meeting will now be held at the Oncenter Complex Convention Center in Syracuse, New York (details below).  This new facility provided a contract with acceptable terms and conditions and will provide ample space at a cost that is fair and reasonable to taxpayers. There will be NO CHANGES to the start or end times nor will there be changes to the schedule for registered speakers.

Say what? The night before EPA changed the meeting to be located 1.5 hours away from where it was originally scheduled—from the place where hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people were planning to attend.

Here was my response to the person who sent me the email:

Thank you for the notification Carolyn. I would like to register, in the strongest possible terms, my disappointment that a) this notification comes to me the day of the change, and b) that the EPA is changing it at the last possible minute. I have to wonder why it’s been changed? I see some generic excuse about acceptable terms. EPA didn’t know there were not acceptable terms in Binghamton months ago?? As a taxpayer and someone very interested in the issue of hydrofracturing and how EPA is attempting to demagogue the issue on the Federal level, I find this behavior on the part of EPA shameful.