A poll suggests New York voter sentiment has shifted somewhat from support of shale gas drilling to opposition by a narrow margin.
The poll released Thursday by Siena Research Institute says 44 percent of voters surveyed opposed the Department of Environmental Conservation lifting a 4 1/2-year-old ban on gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” while 40 percent favored lifting the ban. Upstate voters opposed fracking, 51-38 percent.
Last month, the Siena poll found voters statewide narrowly supported fracking, 42-36 percent.
Siena pollster Steven Greenberg calls the issue a “political land mine” for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as neither supporters nor opponents have succeeded in getting a majority of voters to their position.
The telephone poll conducted Jan. 10-15 surveyed 676 registered voters and has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.
Of course, different camps in the debate read the poll results differently.
Katherine Nadeau, water and natural resources program director for Environmental Advocates of New York, says New York residents want more time to form their opinions.
“While public opinion polls have largely remained constant on fracking in recent years, Gov. Cuomo’s statement that he expects to make a decision in just 40 days — despite a lack of accessible science — has caused a marked shift in public opinion and overall interest in this dangerous activity,” she says.
“Not only is the public more engaged and informed than ever before, but a majority of residents upstate, who stand to lose the most, firmly oppose fracking (51 to 38 percent). Just 10 percent of people living upstate have not yet formed an opinion, so even in the very unlikely event that every one of them made their bed with the gas and oil industry, a majority would still oppose. This is something Governor Cuomo should take to heart as he considers whether to permit fracking.”
But Karen Moreau, executive director of the New York State Petroleum Council, counters with the assertion that, despite “all the hype in the last month from the Hollywood types opposed to safe natural gas development and opportunities to invest in the New York and jobs for New Yorkers, the fact that the numbers in the Siena Poll remain statistically unchanged demonstrates that the ploy of misinformation is falling flat.”
She adds, “The most significant poll remains the one taken on Election Day just two months ago when voters across the Marcellus Shale overwhelmingly elected supporters of hydraulic fracturing in town, county, state and federal races. New Yorkers know, as even the New York Times said in an editorial supporting natural gas development, that smart regulations can ensure our land water and public health are protected as we create thousands of good jobs through hydraulic fracturing.
“Creating jobs, generating millions in revenues for local schools and the state, and saving family farms and lifting whole communities — those are facts that makes safe natural gas development the inevitable choice for New York.”
MEANWHILE, another Siena poll suggests a majority of voters from every party and region say that the new shared leadership in the Senate, including rotating the majority leader position, will help the Senate conduct its business more effectively and not move the Senate back towards dysfunction.
In the bipartisan leadership structure in the Senate, the Independent Democratic Caucus and and the Republican conference share control over the chamber.
Mr. Greenberg says each house of the Legislature continues to be viewed favorably by as many voters as view them unfavorably, a marked change from two years ago when both had very negative favorability ratings.
Independent Democratic Conference Leader and Senate President Pro Tem Jeff Klein, representing Bronx and Westchester counties, says, “As the IDC has long believed, the best way to govern is by building consensus, working across the aisle, and advancing common sense proposals that move New York forward.”
Senate Republican Conference Leader and Senate President Pro Tem Dean Skelos says, “We formed the Senate majority coalition because we believe that it is the best way to continue to build on the progress we’ve made over the last two years in ending government dysfunction, bringing spending under control, enacting a property tax cap and helping businesses create new jobs.”
Citing the National Taxpayer Advocate’s 2012 Annual Report, U.S. Rep. Tom Reed emphasizes the need to simplify the tax code so that taxpayers have a better understanding of the code and how to file properly.
“What really stood out in the report is the overall complexity of the code,” Rep. Reed says. “Hardworking taxpayers are spending a collective 6.1 billion hours and roughly 90 percent use either paid preparers or software each year trying to comply with the 70,000-page tax code. That is time and money that could be better spent creating jobs, expanding businesses and investing. It’s time to make the code simpler and fairer for taxpayers.”
Rep. Reed, who is a member of the Ways and Means Committee, joins Committee Chairman Dave Camp in pressing urgency for tax reform.
“Chairman Camp has reiterated that comprehensive tax reform will come out of the House in 2013 and members of the Senate Finance Committee have sent a similar message of support on the issue,” Rep. Reed says. “Now the question will be whether or not the White House is going to be a willing partner and join us at the table for comprehensive tax reform.”
The National Taxpayer Advocate is obligated to provide its annual report to Congress each year. The 2012 Annual Report highlighted more than 20 of the most cumbersome problems facing taxpayers because of the United States’ complicated tax code.