Ithaca gas protesters: Payout not worth risk

ITHACA -- The hundreds of people milling outside the State Theatre Thursday night weren't waiting to see a show, but rather to hear comments about an issue that has taken center stage across Tompkins County and the Southern Tier: the potential for high-volume hydraulic natural gas drilling into the Marcellus Shale that runs underneath the region.

Doors opened an hour before a public hearing was scheduled to start, and within half an hour, the speaking slots were filled. The crowd was there to hear and make comment on the state's draft gas drilling environmental impact statement.

The Tompkins County Council of Governments had use of the space until 11 p.m., and with 85 people signed up to comment, it seemed likely they would fill all four hours.

About 1,000 more people packed into the 1,600-capacity theater to hear those comments, and in many cases cheer on the speakers as they expressed their concerns about the potential negative impacts of gas drilling on their health, the environment and the local economy. As of press time, no one had spoken in favor of drilling.

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