BUFFALO, NY - A few thousand opponents of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas rallied on the steps of the state Capitol Monday -- and a new public-opinion poll suggests they're gaining traction.
Two busses from the Western New York area made the trip to Albany to take part in a rally against hydraulic fracking for natural gas.
A Siena College survey released Monday found 44 percent of New York voters do no support allowing hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale, compared to 37 percent in favor. Outside of New York City and its suburbs, 52 percent oppose fracking and 38 percent support it, according to the poll.
It's a slight shift from polls over the past three years that have consistently shown voters are split on the issue, including a Siena survey in May that showed 41 percent opposed statewide and 39 percent in favor.
"A majority of upstaters and plurality of New York City voters oppose fracking, while a plurality of downstate suburbanites want to see fracking move forward," said Steven Greenberg, a Siena pollster.
Meanwhile, busloads of anti-fracking activists piled outside of the east side of the Capitol to push the state Senate to pass a two-year moratorium on fracking in New York. The state has yet to allow the technique, pending the completion of an in-depth environmental review by the departments of Health and Environmental Conservation.
"We are calling on the state leaders, all of them here, to reject fracking and lead the energy in developing renewable energy, so that our water, our land and air remain clean and safe for generations to come," said former Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, Ulster County, who was one of the featured speakers at the rally.
The large rally included a musical performance from Jamestown native and Hudson Valley resident Natalie Merchant before protesters marched around the Capitol, calling for a statewide ban.
The Assembly has passed the moratorium bill. A similar bill, sponsored by Sen. David Carlucci, D-Clarkstown, Rockland County, hasn't gained traction in the upper chamber.
Senate Deputy GOP Leader Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, said last week that he doesn't believe his house will take the moratorium up before the legislative session ends Thursday. In an interview on "The Capitol Pressroom," a public-radio program, on Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he believes the measure would have enough Senate support to pass, but didn't signal whether he would sign it if passed.
"I just don't see our house getting too excited about that," Libous, a fracking booster, said last week. "On the whole fracking issue, the governor is going to decide that."
Jon Campbell, Gannett Albany / WGRZ