Huge Turnout Postpones Meeting

PIPE coalition leader Jeff Heckler's phone-banking campaign to get people out to Tuesday night's public meeting on the Longhorn pipeline worked better than even he thought it would. But when nearly 1,000 people tried to cram into the 399-seat auditorium at Bowie High, Austin Fire Chief Gary Warren declared the meeting a public hazard, and Mayor Kirk Watson, in agreement with all parties involved, canceled the meeting after one hour and told the crowd it would be rescheduled for a yet-to-be-determined date. As part of the deal, the EPA and DOT also agreed to extend the public comment period to Dec. 16.

Some organizations that have been laboring to decipher the details of the 1,400-page environmental assessment released by the EPA a few weeks ago welcomed the postponement.

Officials from the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District said they'd make good use of the extra time, since they were still preparing a rebuttal to the EPA's report. But Karin Ascot of the Sierra Club was furious with the decision to postpone and pointed out that the next meeting would likely be scheduled between Thanksgiving and Christmas, one of the busiest times of the year. "What if the people don't show up again?" Ascot asked.

Still, most pipeline opponents remain optimistic. Mike Blizzard, another leader of the PIPE coalition, called the meeting a success despite the postponement, since some 1,500 people filled out postcards to the EPA in protest of the pipeline. The relentless Blizzard and Heckler are organizing yet another demonstration, called "Rally at the Springs," at 11am Saturday, Nov. 20, at Barton Springs Pool.

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