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      Showdown in Binghamton over hydrofracking

      More than one thousand people showed up in Binghamton Thursday afternoon for the second of four public hearings on new proposed state regulations on hydrofracking.

      Both supporters and opponents of this controversial gas drilling method showed up in force for the hearing which is sponsored by the State Department of Environmental Conservation. The state has refused to issue permits for gas drilling since 2008 when it began reviewing the process. Hydrofracking involves injecting a mixture of water and chemical deep below ground to free up natural gas deposits in the Marcellus shale formation throughout much of the southern tier.

      Opponents fear the process will contaminate water supplies, affect public health and ruin the environmnent as well as the tourism economy.

      Supporters, led by the natural gas industry claim the hydrofracking process has been going on for decades and is safe. They also point out that the vast Marcellus Shale formation promises to provide the nation with a much needed supply of clean energy, as well as provide thousands of jobs to boost local economies.

      New York's proposed guidelines impose a number of requirements on how the drilling is to take place. While hydrofracking opponents feel the regulations would be difficult to enforce and too lax to protect health and the environment, supporters feel the requirements are so strict, they could discourage drilling throughout New York State.

      Prior to the hearing, both opponents and supporters held rallies outside the the Forum theatre in Binghamton. They were kept on opposite sides of the block by Binghamton and DEC police.

      One of the demonstrators against hydrofracking, John Sullivan told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon, "We can't let it hit New York... it will poison all the water supplies."

      On the other side of the block, Steve Howland of the Friends of Natural Gas drilling said, "I am an engineer... there's no technical reason why natural gas cannot be drilled safely..."

      For his part, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens says fracking is the most important environmental issue in New York and that permits will not be issued until his agency has the resources in place to enforce rules for doing it safely.