Final NY DEC Hearing in NYC – Surreal

surrealYesterday was an interesting experience for MDN editor Jim Willis, sitting in the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) hearing in New York City. The hearing was the last to be convened by the DEC to accept public comments on new draft drilling regulations proposed by the DEC that will allow high volume hydraulic fracturing to commence in New York State (ie allow shale gas drilling).

The crowd at the TriBeCa Theater in lower Manhattan was almost all anti-drilling—the vast majority were from New York City, were Democrat, and were boisterously loud against fracking. They believe it cannot and should not (indeed will not) ever be allowed in New York State. As Josh Fox, creator of the Gasland movie said during his comments, he believes talking about “how” drilling can be done safely is the wrong premise. He believes the argument should be about “whether it is done at all”. And many echoed his sentiment.

The big news of the day was not the parade of people effusing their emotions into the microphone. The big news was at the very beginning of the program. A DEC official announced that DEC Commissioner Joe Martens has decided to extend the public comment period, the period when people can send in written comments to the DEC, from Dec 12, 2011 until Jan 11, 2012. That’s certainly a blow to landowners and yet more evidence for MDN’s theory that Martens is anti-drilling and is trying to play this out as long as he can in hopes that opposition to drilling becomes so strong that drilling will not happen.

During the entire 3+ hour hearing from 1-4 pm, MDN tweeted various bits of news and comments as the speakers made their comments to DEC officials. For those who don’t use Twitter, a “tweet” is a short message, less than 140 characters, sent out via the Twitter service for others to read. The entire stream of messages from MDN is included below in the order in which they were tweeted.

There is just no polite way to say this: Many of the comments and the crowd’s reaction to those comments entered the realm of whacky, as you will see from the tweets below. And rude. The hearing had a surreal quality.

MDN will post more on the event on Friday after culling through notes and recovering from the trip! In the meantime, here is the raw stream from Twitter:

MDN Twitter Stream from NYC DEC Hearing

  1. Sitting in TriBeCa theater waiting for DEC hearing to begin
  2. Snatch of overheard conversation: So what does DEC and SGEIS stand for?
  3. Almost time to begin but theater that seats 1000 is maybe half full
  4. Stop press: Joe Martens has unilaterally extended SGEIS comment period from Dec 12 to Jan 11
  5. Room now mostly full now that testimony has started
  6. First 3 speakers were NYS state senators from NYC area, not surprisingly all against drilling
  7. State Senator from 29th district bumbled thru his comments at end said he wants criminal penalties for frack fluid releases
  8. No doubt this crowd is largely anti – all speakers so far have been against
  9. Even though he arrived well after others Josh Fox gets to speak 2nd now that non-officials are commenting, so much for fairness
  10. About 15 speakers in our first pro speaker – keeps getting interrupted and shouted down by very rude antis
  11. After the sole (so far) pro speaker, cat calls, boos, people shouting liar, in short, very hostile – so much for free speech
  12. Anti just said if Gov Cuomo goes forward w fracking he is psychopathic and should be removed from office by "all possible means"
  13. After 6-7 non-official speakers, still only the one pro speaker – hearing is very one sided
  14. Have not yet heard a single speaker address the language or concepts in the SGEIS which is what the hearing is for
  15. Dave Publo is leading a public recitation with several hundred reading along – scary, like a mob in here, zealotry
  16. Most of the comments are heavily emotional, things like fracking is a civil rights and human rights issue
  17. More like a revival meeting than a public hearing
  18. Wow! After 30 some speakers, finally a speaker addressing the SGEIS, anti, but at least on topic
  19. Speaker wants jail time for frackers – audience members waving hands in support of that statement
  20. Speaker reciting list of fracking chemicals/hazards – wonder if she knows those same chemicals are under her sink @home?
  21. Latest speaker knows lots of neighbors "who have lost their lives" from fracking, but she lives in NY where there is none yet
  22. Attorney who is anti – "we’re going to be in your face" to oppose fracking
  23. 2 hours in and out of maybe 35-40 speakers still only one pro speaker so far
  24. Speaker says the time for wind and solar is now
  25. Freak show alert: guy singing song about sweet water – lord save me!
  26. Speaker says she can’t swim in PA lakes anymore b/c of pollution from fracking & other sources – I’m not making this up!
  27. Speaker says fracking would make upstate "smell like Newark" – ouch
  28. Audience members shouting that frackers are murderers – such a tolerant bunch here 2day
  29. Mark Rufalo is now speaking against fracking, asks why we don’t go after renewable energy instead of fracking
  30. Mark Rufalo – we want renewable energy now and we will fight for it (loud applause)
  31. Speaker says its criminal to endanger the resource of water
  32. Sierra Club rep wants fracking to be criminalized
  33. Sierra Club rep says energy independence is a Trojan horse – she’s gone over time can’t shut her up
  34. Fracking is "murder for profit plain and simple" according to latest speaker
  35. All speakers so far who have referenced their political party have been Democrat – safe bet this anti crowd is 99% dem
  36. Home stretch now, antis seem to be losing energy with no further pro people to bash
  37. Speaker led off saying she’s a mother & grandmother & her kids/grand kids live in Philly, audience member shouted "oh god"
  38. Final speaker, another freak show alert – older man with maps trying to make a point about value of human life
  39. Sorry, last speaker now on and he’s pro!! Crowd is grumbling, some laughter, shouting of liar, more bad manners on display