Voters are nearly evenly split about the New York Department of Conservation's (DEC) proposed recommendations to allow hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) in a portion of the state's Marcellus Shale, with 45% in support of drilling and 43% opposed, according to a poll of registered voters released on Thursday by the Siena College Research Institute.

The DEC earlier this month published the preliminary draft permit rules for hydrofracking operations, which would impose additional rules on Marcellus operators (see Shale Daily, July 11; related story). A public comment period is scheduled to begin in August, which may lead to additional restrictions, but eventually the DEC is expected to allow horizontal gas drilling using hydrofracking techniques in certain areas, including the southern part of the state, or "downstate," which borders Pennsylvania.

"While only a little more than one-third of downstaters have paid a great deal or some attention to the debate over hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale, nearly two-thirds of upstaters have been following the debate at least somewhat," said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. "That regional difference doesn't, however, carry over to voters' attitudes on the DEC's recommendation to allow hydrofracking, or on whether to trust hydrofracking supporters or opponents."

Statewide the voting was almost split but there were differences in the attitudes of voters depending on where they lived. Upstate, 47% favor, 45% oppose hydrofracking while in the downstate suburbs 47% were in favor of hydrofracking while 40% were opposed. In New York City 41% favored the drilling technique while 42% opposed it.

By a 54-33% margin, voters surveyed statewide said they were more inclined to trust hydrofracking opponents rather than supporters, a view held by 53% in New York City, 54% in the downstate suburbs and 55% upstate.

"Although significantly more voters are currently inclined to trust the arguments of hydrofracking opponents over those of supporters, the debate over whether or not hydrofracking should be permitted in New York has failed so far to produce a clear majority for either position -- either statewide or upstate," Greenberg said.