Protestors will once again gather in front of Auburn's Memorial City Hall for a rally to oppose the controversial practice known as hydrofracking and the disposal of its byproducts.
Members of the Cayuga Anti-Fracking Alliance, the group that organized a similar show of force in June 2011 on the steps of the seat of city government, and other clean water advocate groups will meet at 6 p.m. on Wednesday for "Freedom from Toxic Fracking Waste: National Rally Day" for a loosely coordinated nationwide demonstration.
"A few local groups wanted to rally in solidarity of other groups across the country, namely Ohio, where they have injection wells with fracking wastewater," CAFA co-founder Terry Cuddy said Monday. "And of course, we've had trials here with wastewater and compliance issues."
After last year's protest, the Auburn City Council enacted a ban on the treatment of wastewater produced by natural gas drilling at the city's sewage plant.
But after the balance of power shifted in the November local elections, the governing body, led by Councilor Matthew Smith, voted to rescind the ban only seven months after its enactment.
Smith contended that the treatment plant accepted drilling waste from conventional vertical wells for more than 15 years without incident, and the city was missing out on $500,000 annually because of the needless ban.
In that period, Auburn operated under permits from the state and federal governments allowing a restricted volume of drilling wastewater to be treated at the plant.
According to Director of Municipal Utilities Vicky Murphy, the municipal treatment plant is currently undergoing a year-long analysis of its process and, despite the lifting of the ban, is still not accepting any wastewater from drillers.
Cuddy said Wednesday's demonstration will also serve as a message to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is currently riding the fence on whether to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing into the state.
"Everyone's waiting with bated breath as to what the governor's going to do," Cuddy said. "We're concerned what the indication seems to be of what's coming down the pipe. We hope the evidence that we see is going to prevail and he will decide that this is too risky for New York state."
Cuddy said the upcoming demonstration will likely be smaller that last year's, which drew protesters from Binghamton to Albany.
"If we have 50 to 60, that would be great," he said. "We just want to show the city that it's still an issue and we want them to stick to their promise that everything will be monitored."