When New York became the second state in the nation (after Vermont) to ban the controversial gas drilling method hydraulic fracturing, some were surprised that Governor Andrew Cuomo finally took a stance on the issue.
The fracking announcement December 17th came after six years of a de facto moratorium with a long-awaited health impact study. New York State acting Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, who said “I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York.”
A December 22nd Quinnipiac University poll found New York voters support the fracking decision 55 percent to 25 percent, but the move appeared to have little effect on Cuomo's overall approval rating: 85 percent of voters polled by Quinnipiac like the job he’s doing.
A Siena poll released three days earlier found 52 percent of those surveyed believe Cuomo has made New York a better place to live in the last four years, with 14 percent saying it’s worse and 26 percent saying it’s about the same. Twenty-four percent are optimistic about the next four years with Cuomo as governor, 17 are pessimistic and 58 percent are somewhere in the middle.
Siena pollster Steve Greenberg: "The governor 58 percent favorable, 37 percent unfavorable. His job performance rating is unchanged, still under water, 42 percent of New York voters think Andrew Cuomo is doing an excellent or good job as governor, compared to 57 percent who say he's doing a fair or poor job as governor."
The poll was taken between December 10th and 16th, prior to Cuomo's fracking announcement. "Siena polled on fracking for several years. What we found in this poll, which was released after the Cuomo Administration announced its new fracking policy but the phone calls were completed before the administration announced its policy, but what we see here is what we have seen for several years. New Yorkers are nearly evenly divided. This month, 35 percent of New York voters say they support fracking, 38 percent oppose fracking."
The city of Albany lies within what some call "neutral fracking territory," where everyone was aware of the issue but little thought was given to drilling actually taking place in the Capital or Saratoga regions. Mayor Kathy Sheehan seems satisfied with the ban. "When you look at how New York approached this, and taking an approach where we were going to look at the health impacts and the economic impacts, that it was the right approach and ultimately the governor made the decision that he made. In looking all of the different potential impacts and environmental impacts and health impacts, I think that we want New York state to be a place where people want to come and invest and our natural resources are a very important part of that equation."
Although it earned him plaudits from a sometimes antagonistic left flank, Greenberg thinks fracking is a "lose-lose" issue for the governor. "No matter what he decided, he was going to upset a sizeable number of voters. What's most interesting about fracking from my perspective is that while you see the anticipated partisan divide, and by that I mean Democrats by nearly 2 to 1 opposed fracking, Republicans by nearly 2 to 1 support fracking, you don't see the intuitive regional breakdown. This is not your classic upstate-downstate battle. Right now, voters in New York City by a narrow margin lean toward opposing fracking. The biggest opposition to fracking actually comes from upstate voters. 44 per cent of upstate voters oppose fracking, 36 percent support it. The real support for fracking regionally in New York comes from the downstate suburbs. They support it by a margin of 40 to 32 percent."
In the weeks to come, Cuomo’s environmental commissioner, Joe Martens, is expected to finalize the long-delayed environmental impact statement, concluding that hydrofracking will not be permitted in New York.
December 22, 2014 - New York State Voters Approve Cuomo Fracking Ban, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Big Yes To Minimum Wage Hike, Big No To Legislative Raise PDF format