By a rate of nearly 2 to 1, New Yorkers think the risks of fracking outweigh potential revenues

A report released last Friday by the Cornell University Survey Research Institute summarizing polling data from the last three years demonstrates that New Yorkers’ attitudes toward natural gas drilling are skeptical at best.

The report compiles data taken from 800 random telephone interviews conducted each year between 2010 and 2012.  Results were collected from New York’s “downstate” (New York, Rockland, Kings, Richmond, Westchester, Suffolk, Queens, Nassau, and Bronx) and “upstate” counties (all others) and weighted to reflect actual population distribution in the state.

Here are some relevant highlights from the report:

  • By a margin of nearly two to one, surveyed New Yorkers said that they thought the risks of natural gas drilling would outweigh the revenues, as opposed to the revenues outweighing the risks (53% to 25% in 2010; 52% to 27% in 2011 (results not available for 2012)).
  • When asked how overall quality of life will be affected in communities impacted by natural gas drilling, the vast majority of New Yorkers (68%) said that it would likely get worse or, at best, stay the same, rather than improve (45% get worse; 23% stay the same).
  • By a more than two to one margin, both downstate and upstate New Yorkers agree that local governments should be able to control gas drilling within their jurisdictions (downstate: 60% agree/strongly agree to 28% disagree/strongly disagree; upstate: 63% to 29%).

These new results should give Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Martens pause before they rush to approve a program for permitting widespread new fracking in New York - something that a majority of New Yorkers (52%) feel is likely to benefit only a few people (with another 20% having no opinion).  This report shows that the people of New York understand and fear the well-documented costs of fracking experienced elsewhere. So should our State’s decisionmakers as they ask themselves whether fracking is worth it, and if so, how the risks can be addressed.

The results also lend strong support to the more than 100 municipalities in the state that have already taken action to ban or severely limit fracking within their borders.  Two lower courts have already upheld their right to do so.  As industry appeals those decisions, the results of the Cornell poll suggest the public is rooting for them to lose.