A Siena College Research Institute poll released Tuesday shows New Yorkers are still almost evenly split on the issue of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), but it contains some surprising numbers concerning where the practice is generating support and opposition.

Meanwhile, the Town of Rochester, NY (a community of more than 7,000 people in Ulster County, not to be confused with the City of Rochester in Monroe County) has scheduled a public hearing for a proposed indefinite ban on natural gas extraction and related activities at its next meeting on Aug. 30.

According to the Siena poll, a plurality of respondents in upstate New York (48%) opposes the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) moving forward with fracking in parts of upstate New York. Meanwhile, a plurality of voters in New York City (39%) supports such a move.

All responses to questions asked in the poll have a margin of error of plus/minus 3.8%.

“Hydrofracking remains a divisive issue for New Yorkers and presents DEC and the governor with a political ‘lose-lose,'” said Siena pollster Steven Greenberg. “Whatever decision they make is going to upset as many people as it pleases.”

Cherie Messore, spokeswoman for the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York (IOGA), told NGI’s Shale Daily it was “difficult to draw a conclusion from the survey. However we still believe, based on the success of natural gas development in other states, New Yorkers are still open to the opportunities of moving forward with natural gas exploration and what that will mean for New Yorkers in the Southern Tier. Even in those areas where it looks like a real tight split [between supporters and opponents], it certainly is within the margin of error.”

Overall, 39% of respondents support a possible move by the DEC while 38% are opposed, up from the 37-36% support for fracking from a similar poll announced on May 16. The latest poll showed fracking continued to enjoy support among Republicans (50- 33%) and also curried favor among independents (42-39%). But the practice continued to be opposed by Democrats (41-30%). Also, men tended to support fracking (47-36%) while women opposed it (40-32%).

Fracking supporters outnumbered opponents in New York City (39-30%) and the suburbs (41-37%), but upstate voters opposed it (48-36%).

The Siena poll showed Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo had registered a 71% favorable rating, even managing to secure a plurality of support among Republicans (58-36%). Cuomo’s administration is reportedly close to announcing support for high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) and a plan to allow the practice in at least five counties along the Pennsylvania border (see Shale Daily, Aug. 8; June 14).

DEC regulators are working to complete the final version of a supplemental generic environmental impact statement on HVHF, with plans to release its findings by the end of the year. The DEC could also unveil a set of regulations for the practice.

On July 26, a Quinnipiac University poll showed 44% of respondents opposed fracking in New York, compared to 43% in favor, a statistical tie because both figures lie within the margin of error (see Shale Daily, Aug. 1). Another 13% were undecided.

Rochester Town Clerk Kathleen Sergio told NGI’s Shale Daily the Town Board could vote to approve Local Law No. 2 after the next public hearing on the matter. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30 at the Town Hall.

According to Sergio, the proposed ordinance would ban fracking and related activities indefinitely due to fears that allowing them would impact “wetlands, lakes, streams, groundwater resources, drinking supplies, public roads, historic landscapes, agriculture, small-town character and the town’s tourism and recreational-based economy.”

Officials from the town, one of the largest is the state in terms of area, began considering the ban earlier this summer (see Shale Daily, June 6). Most of the area within the western town limits is covered by Catskills State Park, while portions of Minnewaska State Park Preserve and the Mohonk Preserve lie within the town’s eastern limits.

According to IOGA, as of mid-May about 72 municipalities in the state have enacted moratoriums on fracking, while another 22 local governments (including the cities of Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Geneva, Ithaca, Niagara Falls and Syracuse) have banned fracking outright.