Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday suggested that those in favor of hydrofracking and shale-gas drilling aren’t using their time to their advantage.
(A quick recap: In an interview with Gannett’s Albany Bureau, Cuomo said lobbyists and consultants for pro-fracking groups would be “better advised to spend their time actually getting out information to allay the fears of the people of this state than worrying about hallway chatter.”)
Scott Kurkoski, the Broome County-based attorney for the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, said the pro-fracking group has focused on making its case to the public, but its members have grown frustrated with the state’s lengthy decision-making process.
“There’s no one in this state that has educated landowners better than the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York,” Kurkoski said. “The fact of the matter is a lot of landowners have just given up on it. They don’t come to educational meetings anymore because they’re so discouraged at what our state is doing.”
The criticism and subsequent pushback came the same day as a new Siena College poll showed a continued split among New Yorkers on the merits of hydrofracking, which proponents say could be an economic engine for the struggling Southern Tier and opponents say could cause irreparable harm to the environmental and public health.
About 43 percent were opposed to fracking and 39 percent in favor, according to Siena.
Critics of fracking weren’t pleased with Cuomo’s remarks, either. Katherine Nadeau, water and natural resources program director for Environmental Advocates of New York, said Cuomo’s job is “to protect New Yorkers health, not provide public relations advice to a multi-billion dollar industry.”
“I think the governor would be better advised to spend his time actually getting the information he needs to protect the people of his state rather than worrying about the industry’s hallway chatter,” she said.
The Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, one of the state’s major gas-industry groups, is scheduled to be at the Capitol on Tuesday for a series of meetings with lawmakers and officials.
A spokesman for the group said it “would be hard to believe that (Cuomo’s) comments were directed at IOGA.”
“All we have done in Albany and across the state for 4 1/2 years is educating the public, holding forums, having meetings with lawmakers – local and statewide,” said James Smith, the spokesman. “If our message is drowned out by a well-organized activist movement, it doesn’t mean that what we’re saying isn’t true.”