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When Terry Pegula appeared before the Western New York legislative delegation 15 months ago to make a pitch for hydraulic fracturing, his audience agreed few others were better versed in the controversial subject.

The Buffalo Sabres owner, after all, had amassed a multi-billion-dollar fortune over the years in extracting natural gas from the ground in Pennsylvania and other places.

But even though Pegula has now left the natural gas business to become a full-time hockey team owner, it was obvious during that November 2011 meeting – according to those who were there – that he remained convinced of the science and economics behind hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking.

“For me, it was very informative,” Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, said Friday. “He had these scientists there to explain the science of fracking in ways I never heard before. Personally, I was very grateful.”

Sabres officials confirmed a Gannett News report on Friday indicating Pegula hosted the meeting at First Niagara Center for almost all of the local delegation. Spokesman Michael Gilbert said Pegula had nothing more to add, other than the local legislators seemed pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the controversial natural gas recovery method.

“It was casual, and all very ‘soft,’ ” said Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan, D-Buffalo. “It was kind of like ‘Here’s what we did in Pennsylvania and here’s how it worked out.’

“And to be honest, he was the new owner of the Sabres then,” he added. “More people asked about the Sabres from the Sabres guy than they did about fracking from the fracking guy.”

New York State faces a deadline this month to report on its review of hydraulic fracturing, in which enormous amounts of water, sand and chemicals are injected into shale formations thousands of feet below the surface of the earth to free natural gas. While the process has resulted in an economic boon for places like Pennsylvania, environmental concerns have yet to clear the way for drillers in New York State.

New York’s Southern Tier and its Marcellus Shale formation is seen an especially rich area for natural gas deposits.

Peoples-Stokes said Friday that while Pegula’s presentation opened her eyes to many aspects of fracking, she remains concerned about how to dispose of the chemical-laden wastewater from the process.

Ryan added that Pegula’s session underscored the economic benefits that can accrue from the business of fracking.

“He wanted us to understand that hundreds of farmers in Pennsylvania went from poverty to security, and that he felt very proud to have brought that to parts of Pennsylvania,” Ryan said, adding he still favors additional environmental regulations before he could support the process.

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com