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February 7, 2013

Polls no help when it comes to DEC choice

The Daily Star

---- — “Any time four New Yorkers get into a cab together without arguing,” said the late Johnny Carson, “a bank robbery has just taken place.”

The results of the latest in a series of polls with similar results concerning hydrofracking were announced Monday, and this newspaper, along with others in the New York state, dutifully reported the news.

Roughly half — 48 percent — of the citizens in our part of upstate New York are against fracking for shale gas, according to the Siena College survey, while the other half — 47 percent — are for it. The other 4 percent, we presume, were busy arguing about something else when the pollsters called.

Statewide, 40 percent were for fracking, and 40 percent were opposed.

That’s not a big surprise given New Yorkers’ propensity to disagree about things.

The survey of what the Siena folks called the Southern Tier region, which included Otsego, Delaware and Chenango counties (that inclusion alone would start any number of arguments), was consistent with previous efforts to determine how the populace feels about drilling for natural gas.

That sort of information is important stuff for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who, were it not for Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden, would be the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to garnering the Democratic nomination for president in 2016.

If he comes out in favor of fracking, it will make a lot of liberals far less inclined to support him in primaries dominated by the party’s base voters.

But if he gets in the way of fracking, he gets in the way of what promises to be an economic boom that could burnish his national fiscal credentials.

So, there probably aren’t too many people more frustrated by the polls than Cuomo, except perhaps those of us who want something, anything, to get the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to make a decision regarding drilling in New York.

After considerable study of the possible health impacts associated with fracking, the DEC did a review, then didn’t release it, pending it being giving the once-over by the state Department of Health, which turned the job over to three outside experts.

Meanwhile, on Monday, state Environmental Commissioner Joseph Martens told lawmakers that because the Health Department review hasn’t been completed, the DEC might not be able to release its findings before the Feb. 27 deadline.

All that would mean is that the state would have to put the regulations out for public comment again, meaning yet another lengthy delay in coming to a final decision about whether to allow fracking.

It’s hard to argue — even for New Yorkers — that all this delay isn’t a colossal waste of time.