By Neale Gulley
Niagara Gazette — A new Siena poll shows that 51 percent of upstate voters now oppose the gas extraction process called hydrofracking.
With Gov. Andrew Cuomo set to make a decision on the controversial process by Feb. 27, the group Environmental Advocates of New York says the latest poll shows that the upstate residents with the most at stake haven't been given an opportunity to learn enough about the environmental, health or economic impacts of the plan — a process which at time, it says, has included secrecy.
The poll concludes upstate voters specifically are opposed to fracking, 51 to 38 percent, withy 10 percent still undecided.
"Just 10 percent of people living upstate have not yet formed an opinion, so even in the very unlikely event that every one of them made their bed with the gas and oil industry, a majority would still oppose," said Katherine Nadeau, Water & Natural Resources Program Director for the advocacy group. "This is something Gov. Cuomo should take to heart."
Guidelines to mitigate potentially negative impacts of the so-called "fracking" industry were proposed in 2011, and in November, Cuomo extended the process by 90 days, including a 30 day public comment period that ended last Friday.
But officials with the advocacy group said secrecy has kept the results of a further health review from becoming public, and that 204,000 residents who expressed concerns during that period haven't yet had a chance to review all of the data still being compiled on the economics, health risks or other possible consequences of the practice.
"While public opinion polls have largely remained constant on fracking in recent years, Gov. Cuomo's statement that he expects to make a decision in just 40 days – despite a lack of accessible science – has caused a marked shift in public opinion and overall interest in this dangerous activity," Nadeau said in a statement on behalf of the group.
The group says it is in favor of allowing the current process to expire, thus delaying a decision until the expert review of the DEC's latest health study is released.