DEC hears impassioned debate on gas drilling

FENTON -- About 1,000 people crowded into a high school auditorium Thursday night to give their best - and perhaps final - shot at influencing the great debate over natural gas drilling.

Officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation scheduled the hearing at Chenango Valley High School to collect feedback on regulations proposed to oversee development of the Marcellus, the nation's largest natural gas reserve. It extends from the Southern Tier through the Appalachian basin, with one of the most lucrative parts going under the heart of Broome County.

The auditorium, which can hold 1,060, was filled nearly to capacity, with many people standing in the aisles, including protesters bearing signs and wearing costumes.

In what sounded and looked like a pep rally, speakers drew loud applause after digressing into impassioned praises or criticisms of the drilling industry and its plans to set up shop in Broome County.

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