Poll: More support hydrofracking than oppose it

ALBANY (AP) – A new poll shows more New Yorkers support “hydrofracking” than oppose it, with support more common in downstate regions.

A Siena College poll of registered voters found 42 percent support hydrofracking, which involves injecting a well with millions of gallons of chemically treated water to crack rock deep underground. Another 36 percent oppose it and the rest of the respondents did not express an opinion.

Siena found that residents of upstate New York opposed hydrofracking 45 percent to 39 percent.

Drillers want to tap natural gas in the massive Marcellus Shale formation, which stretches into New York’s Southern Tier. New state regulations for shale gas development are being developed.

The poll of 822 voters was conducted Nov. 26-29 and has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

Meanwhile, a natural gas lawyer says industry interest in drilling in New York’s part of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation is at an “all-time low” because of long regulatory delays and expected lawsuits.

Tom West of Albany told members of the state Association of General Contractors that low gas prices, the high cost of complying with New York’s stringent new regulations and fear of litigation are likely to dampen industry enthusiasm in the state, at least for the short term. He noted that environmental groups have vowed to challenge the state’s environmental review in court and seek a stay on issuance of permits while the litigation progresses. He urged the contractors’ group to intervene in the anticipated lawsuit to oppose a stay on permits while the case is argued.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the drilling will only be allowed if it’s proven safe. The Department of Environmental Conservation is expected to finalize new drilling regulations in late February. Shale development has been banned in New York since DEC started an environmental review in 2008.

Thousands of wells have brought an economic boost to Pennsylvania communities in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale region that also

underlies southern New York and parts of Ohio and West Virginia. Mike Elmendorf, president of the contractors’ group, said members are frustrated by the slow pace and repeated delays in New York’s regulatory process for shale gas development.

“We have members who have a large part of their workforce going to Pennsylvania because there are jobs there when there aren’t jobs in New York,” Elmendorf said. “Businesses in the Southern Tier have benefited from the shale gas boom across the border in Pennsylvania, but we shouldn’t be eating the leftovers. We should be at the table.”

Shale gas development requires high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of horizontally drilled wells thousands of feet deep. A high volume of chemically treated water mixed with sand is injected into wells to break up the underground shale and release the gas. Regulators and the industry say the method is safe when done according to state rules, but environmental groups and some scientists say not enough research has been done on air and water contamination or other health and environmental issues.

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