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Poll: NY state voters give plurality support to fracking

A plurality of New York voters say they would support a decision by the state’s environmental department to allow hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in certain Upstate areas, according to a Siena Research Institute poll.

Forty-two percent of voters said they support allowing hydraulic fracturing in upstate areas, holding a slim lead over the 36 percent that oppose allowing the controversial drilling method. This remains unmoved from October 2012, but support for fracking in upstate areas has increased from 37 percent in May 2012.

“Today’s Siena poll demonstrates once again that New Yorkers are ready to embrace safe natural gas development because they know it will mean thousands of good jobs, reduce property taxes, and save family farms,” said New York State Petroleum Council’s Executive Director Karen Moreau.

According to the poll, a majority of downstate suburban voters supported allowing upstate fracking, as did a plurality of voters in New York City. However, support of fracking among upstate voters held only a narrow margin — 45 percent to 39 percent — over opponents to the practice.

“This continues to be an issue where neither supporters nor opponents have made a strong enough case to rally a majority to their side,” said Siena pollster Steven Greenberg. “Democrats and independents are closely divided on the subject, with Republicans strongly supporting it.”

There has been a fracking moratorium within the state since 2008, but the State Department of Environmental Conservation is expected to soon decide whether or not to allow the practice within the state.

Fracking involves injecting fluids into cracks in rock formations in order to widen them and allow more oil and gas to escape, increasing the amount of oil and gas that can be recovered.

The practice has been hotly debated within the state, with regulators and the gas industry saying the practice is safe when done properly and environmentalists saying it could contaminate the water and air.

At one point earlier this year, the state had seemed on the verge of allowing fracking in some parts of the state, but pressure from environmentalists forced the Cuomo administration to delay the decision by commissioning another study of fracking’s effect on public health. The decision is expected to be made in 2013.

“Let the science dictate the conclusion,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in August, adding, “We will make a decision based on the facts.”

New York’s neighbor, Pennsylvania, has allowed fracking to occur, which many credit with economic growth in the state.

“There is no other industry that can provide, conservatively, 25,000 direct jobs that can keep young people in their own communities to raise their families, help seniors stay in their homes by reducing property taxes and lift entire communities out of a long decline,” said Moreau.

“We can do it while protecting land, water and public health by working together to do it right. That is the future if we choose it; it’s the future the people of the Southern Tier chose last month,” she added.

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