Concerns about crowds and security have forced the Environmental Protection Agency to postpone a public hearing in New York on natural gas drilling two days before the event, the agency announced Tuesday.
The decision came less than 24 hours after the agency announced it was moving Thursday's hearing from Binghamton University 65 miles north to a Syracuse convention center.
The EPA says the university wanted to raise the amount it was charging from $6,000 to $40,000. In a statement, the university said it anticipated as many as 8,000 people and rallies by bused-in drilling opponents.
The EPA announced Monday evening that the event would be moved to the Oncenter in Syracuse. But Tuesday morning, Oncenter management met with the Onondaga County Executive's office, Syracuse city officials and police, and concluded that two days wasn't enough time to prepare, Oncenter spokeswoman Sandy Baker said.
A new date and location haven't been set.
The hearing is the fourth and last by the EPA around the country as it studies hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells. Previous hearings were held in Fort Worth, Texas; Denver; and Cannonsburg, Pa. The Pennsylvania hearing drew more than 1,200 participants.
Critics say hydraulic fracturing, which blasts chemical-laced water into the earth to free natural gas, could poison water supplies. The industry says it's been used safely for decades.
Congress directed the EPA to study the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water, human health and the environment. With public input submitted in writing or at the four public meetings, the EPA had planned to complete the study's design by September, initiate it in January and have initial study results available by late 2012.