August 11, 2011 / 4:43 PM / 8 years ago

New Yorkers want fracking, but see consequences

* Jobs wanted despite perception of environmental harm

* Majority want new tax on natural gas drilling companies

By Edith Honan

NEW YORK, Aug 11 (Reuters) - New York State voters want the economic benefits of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale more than they fear its environmental impact, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday.

Nearly 60 percent of voters say there should be a new tax on drilling companies, the poll found.

A majority of Republican voters and men said the state should throw open its share of one of the world’s richest natural gas deposits to drilling, while most Democrats and women oppose it because of environmental concerns. Overall, voters support drilling by a margin of 47 to 42 percent.

While two-thirds of voters believe drilling will create jobs, more than half said drilling “will cause environmental damage,” the poll found. About one-third were undecided about the environmental impacts of drilling.

The poll, Quinnipiac’s first on the subject, was published on the same day a U.S. panel outlined a regulatory roadmap for the booming shale natural gas industry, urging more transparency on the use of chemicals and more careful treatment of waste water.

New York is home to a large piece of the Marcellus Shale, a massive formation believed to be one of the richest natural gas deposits on the planet. The state is developing guidelines to allow drilling.

“Drill for the jobs, New Yorkers say, even though they’re worried about the environmental effects of hydrofracking,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “And while we’re drilling for natural gas, let’s tax those drilling companies.”

The poll marked the first time Quinnipiac has asked New York voters for their view on a controversial method of deep shale gas extraction known as hydraulic fracturing.

Also called “fracking” or “hydrofracking”, the process blasts millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals deep into shale rock, freeing trapped gas. Critics say leaks of the chemicals at the surface endanger groundwater and that drilling operations pollute the air.

Industry officials say opponents have exaggerated the environmental impact, while economic benefits to the state would be significant.

Outside New York City, just over half of state voters say drilling should be allowed, while in New York City, half of those polled oppose it.

New York City residents and elected officials have expressed concern that fracking could endanger its upstate watersheds, which provide drinking water to about 9 million people.

The state’s draft regulations would ban fracking in and immediately around the watershed.

The Aug. 3-8 poll surveyed 1,640 registered voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points, Quinnipiac said.

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