Thursday, August 19, 2010

Yet another shale gas summit bites the dust.

First it was on, then it was relocated, then it was off.  Now it may be on again, but who knows where.  I'm talking about the EPA's public fracking meeting--the last of 4 held across the country.  First it was to be in Binghamtom, but was cancelled only days before--this after a large number of protestors (some traveling long distances) promised to make their presence known.  The EPA cited logistical & contract issues.  One would think these would have been worked out months ago rather than left to mere days before the event.  At any rate, it was relocated to Syracuse and now Syracuse, too, has pulled the plug.  Now there's talk of it being back in Binghamton, but the EPA is keeping their options open.  You can read more about the ongoing saga HERE.

Now it seems the massive gas shale summit scheduled for October 1st in Pittsburgh (it would have included Pennsylvania politicians in addition to gas company executives) has not only been cancelled--it's as if the thing was never even scheduled in the first place.  Again, a large contingent of protesters were planning to attend; the event was mentioned just a few weeks ago on our blog. As journalist Chris Potter writes, the event hasn't just been cancelled, "it's as if the summit was never scheduled at all."  On August 18th, Potter posted the following article on the Pittsburgh City Paper's website.

(Thanks to one of our FB fans for the "heads up" on this!)

Marcellus Shale Coalition cancels summit where protest was planned

The Marcellus Shale Coaltion has quietly cancelled a "shale gas summit" originally planned for Oct.1.

And by "quietly," I mean that for all appearances, it's as if the summit was never scheduled at all. The coalition Web page that once touted the summit now produces a 404 error. (Though a cached version of it can be found here.) No other mention of it appears on the site.

The summit was billed as a chance for "key stakeholders to showcase and highlight the Marcellus Shale’s economic and energy production potential." It was said to be attracting CEOs from big gas producers like Chesapeake Energy and Range Resources. It was also, however, likely to attract a sizable protest from people opposed to natural-gas drilling in the state.

Travis Windle, a spokesman for the coaltion, confirms that the event has been cancelled. What role did the protest play in that decision? "None whatsoever, actually," he says.

Instead, he says, the event was called off due to "a host of logistical issues" including several competing events. Chief among them is the "DUG East" convention being held in Pittsburgh just over a month later. That event is slated to include at least one of the same keynote speakers -- Range Resources CEO John Pinkerton -- and Windle says the events would "be pulling from the same pool of attendees" as well. Another shale event is slated for a few days before the DUG conference.

This still raises the question about why the event was not so much cancelled as "disappeared." You might expect the Coalition to notify people that their event had been called off -- rather than, you know, simply scrubbing the website and acting as if it never happened.

Windle says that those who were interested in the event were notified, but "we didn't think it was necessary to issue a statement" beyond taking the web page down.

So if I'm a protester, I guess, I'm sending out "change the date" cards and planning my activities on Nov. 3-4 instead. And I'm hoping that gas wells are as easily dispensed with as the Oct. 1 conference was.


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