No Public Mandate to Fast-Track Fracking in New York, Opinion Polls Find

Two recent opinion polls of New York State voters reveal a public that is deeply divided on the issue of industrial gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. 

The results would seem to undercut the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s current plans for fast-tracking the hydro-fracking environmental review and administrative rule-making processes here.

According to a new Quinnipiac poll released yesterday, upstate New Yorkers – “who have the most to gain in terms of jobs and the most to lose in terms of the environment” if fracking moves forward – are almost evenly split on the issue, with 47 percent opposed and 43 percent in support.  

The survey also shows that while 51 percent of all NYS voters polled believe fracking will damage the environment, a slight plurality (45%-41%) support drilling. Voters living in the suburbs support drilling, this survey found, 56-31 percent, with New York City voters evenly split (41%-41%). (Ironically, the greater support for drilling by NYC and suburban residents may be due to their awareness of the state’s plan to prohibit drilling in the Catskill/Delaware watershed, which supplies drinking water to New York City and Westchester County residents.)

And just last month, a NY1/YNN-Marist poll found even less support for drilling: 37 percent of registered voters opposed drilling, versus 33 percent in support. Thirty percent were unsure.

(Meanwhile, the gas industry continues its misleading multi-million dollar publicity campaign to convince state residents that industrial gas drilling is already as safe as motherhood and apple pie.)

Taken together, these polls tell us that the people of New York have not given New York State Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens a mandate to fast-track drilling. If anything, they confirm that there’s still a lot of division over fracking around the state.  And they reinforce the message that the Department would be well advised to stop rushing the process, to listen carefully to the public, and to rethink the direction it is heading in.

What’s at stake is nothing less than protection of the state’s water, air and land, and the quality of life in many communities for future generations.

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