ALBANY Sen. Charles Schumer on Monday said he and most other Democrats are supportive of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, but he sounded a more cautious tone when asked if it should be allowed in New York.
Schumer, D-N.Y., appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" to discuss the much-debated Keystone XL pipeline and a push to increase the federal minimum wage.
When Schumer noted an increase in domestic oil and natural gas production, host Joe Scarborough asked Schumer about the potential for natural-gas production in New York through fracking. Much of New York sits within the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations, but high-volume fracking -- the controversial technique used to help free shale gas -- has remained on hold in New York.
"Well, I haven't stepped on the governor's issue on this one. He's being very, very careful because there are environmental concerns," Schumer said. "But overall, the Democrats throughout the country have supported fracking. The president has, most of us have, and it's worked quite well."
New York's review of fracking stretches back to 2008, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration inheriting it in 2011. Since September 2012, it has been wrapped up in the state Department of Health, which is reviewing whether the Department of Environmental Conservation's proposed guidelines would protect public health.
Fracking involves the use of water, sand and chemicals blasted deep underground to fracture shale formations and release natural gas.
Scarborough asked Schumer whether he would like to see fracking allowed in upstate New York, if it's done "carefully."
"If the governor feels it's going to be done carefully, I sure would," Schumer said.
Critics of fracking have been vocal in New York about the potential for environmental and health impacts, particularly as it relates to water quality.
New Yorkers Against Fracking, a coalition of fracking opponents, issued a statement saying they were "dismayed" with Schumer's comments. They pointed to a Pew Research poll from September that showed 59 percent of Democrats in the U.S. are opposed to the "increased use of fracking."
"New Yorkers deserve more from our senators than blindly following gas industry propaganda, and we urge Senator Schumer to re-evaluate and take a position that doesn't support poisoning our families," the coalition's statement said.
Schumer's gas-drilling position was lauded by Thomas West, an oil-and-gas attorney and lobbyist based in Albany. West represents the bankruptcy trustee of Norse Energy, who sued the state last year over its delay in issuing fracking permits.
"What this means about the relationship between Senator Schumer and Andrew Cuomo remains to be seen, but we need to recognize that Senator Schumer represents all of New York state, including the upstate residents whose mineral rights have been left stranded by the lack of decision-making in New York state," West said.
A spokesman for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, said the junior senator believes fracking is a "tremendous economic opportunity for New York," but that it "can not come at the expense of clean air and safe drinking water for all New Yorkers."
"Before any drilling moves forward, she believes we must have strong controls and safeguards in place coupled with full transparency," Glen Caplin, the spokesman, said in an email.