A standing-room-only crowd quickly filled a conference room Wednesday to have its say on the state’s move to lift an effective ban on liquefied natural gas.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation’s public hearing on its proposed regulations for siting liquefied natural gas — or LNG — facilities drew a more-than-capacity audience, as the 125-person hearing room quickly filled up, leaving a few dozen to wait outside for their turn to speak.
The DEC moved earlier this year to issue rules for permitting new LNG storage sites and fueling stations, 40 years after a deadly explosion at an empty facility on Staten Island led the state to put them on hold three years later.
But the DEC’s proposed regulations have drawn the ire of highly organized groups opposed to hydraulic fracturing, who have said the regulations don’t include basic safety measures — such as a limit on the size of facilities.
At informational sessions before the hearing, DEC officials said they moved to issue new rules because of demand from the transportation industry. As the price of natural gas has dropped to near-historic lows over the past several years — in part due to the expansion of fracking across the country — the demand for LNG as a trucking fuel has increased and companies like UPS shift their fleets.
Karin Kennett White of the New York State Motor Truck Association testified that New York trucks are at a competitive disadvantage because the state is the only in the country to ban LNG fueling stations, which she said leads to an increase in the price in consumer goods.
The hearing was held inside of a conference room at the DEC’s headquarters in downtown Albany. It had a capacity of 125, which was met within minutes of the agency opening its doors.
An hour after the hearing had started, about a dozen people were still lined up outside the DEC’s front doors, waiting their opportunity to enter the hearing as speakers left.
Peter Constantakes, a DEC spokesman, said everyone was allowed an opportunity to speak at the forum. At one point, speakers who were traveling back to New York City by bus were allowed to speak out of turn. The hearing, which started at 2 p.m., continued after 5 p.m.
A pre-hearing rally from anti-fracking groups attracted about 150, where speakers called on the DEC to withdraw the proposed regs. Here’s a taste: