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No Report Yet, But Cuomo Says Fracking Could Help Some NY Regions

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he believes high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) could mesh with the state's economic development plans, but he said there was no news regarding a health impact analysis of the practice.

Meanwhile, a Siena College Research Institute poll released Monday showed respondents were opposed to fracking by a 42-41% margin, but support for the practice was on the rise and the gap between the two positions on the issue had narrowed.

During an interview Monday on the public radio program "The Capitol Pressroom," Cuomo said the economy of Upstate New York -- which includes the state's Southern Tier, where Marcellus and Utica shale drilling would be performed if HVHF is permitted -- has "been on the wrong track for decades.

"Let's be honest here," Cuomo said. "Define the problem honestly so we have a chance at fixing it. It's been [bad] since the manufacturing economy. We've never transitioned into a new economy in Upstate New York. We've been losing people, losing jobs. It's been a slow decline for decades."

Last September, state Department of Health Commissioner Nirav Shah was asked to conduct a health impact analysis on HVHF (see Shale DailySept. 24, 2012). Cuomo told interviewer Susan Arbetter that there was "no update at this time" on when Shah's report would be completed.

"We're still waiting for it, but it's misleading to suggest that hydrofracking would be the answer for the Upstate economy," Cuomo said. "You're talking about a limited geographic region for hydrofracking. If we approved hydrofracking today, that is not going to change the trajectory of the Upstate economy."

Cuomo added that he thought fracking could be incorporated into other long-term economic development strategies. But he also indicated that fracking may never be permitted everywhere.

"I don't think it's incongruous," the governor said. "We understand the potential economic benefits for certain geographic regions, where [shale] is present. It's certainly not present all across Upstate, but in the areas where it is present -- primarily in the Southern Tier, and those counties that would approve it in the Southern Tier, which is now a smaller subset -- we understand the economic benefits."

Last May, a four-judge panel at Appellate Division Third Department in Albany ruled that local bans did not violate the state's Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law (see Shale DailyMay 6).

"What are the health and environmental consequences?" Cuomo asked. "That's what we are studying. And that's not a little question: it's a big question and it's a controversial question. And we're trying to substitute information for emotion.

"But there's no reason why hydrofracking in those places couldn't be conducted as part of this economic agenda that we have. We have a very regionalized economic agenda, understanding there is no 'one blanket solution' for Upstate New York. So, in the places where hydrofracking could work, great."

The latest Siena poll showed support for fracking had grown and opposition to fracking had fallen. Opponents of the practice outpolled supporters for four consecutive months: in March (43-39%), April (45-40%), May (41-39%) and June (44-37%), the last of which was the biggest gap in favor of opponents.

 Fracking foes also won a January poll (44-40%), but voters split (40-40%) on the issue in February (see Shale DailyFeb. 5). Fracking supporters won polls conducted in August (39-38%), October (42-36%) and December (42-36%) of 2012 (see Shale DailyDec. 6, 2012Oct. 30, 2012Aug. 22, 2012).

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