Victories by fracking supporters in races for town and county offices across the Southern Tier send a clear message to Albany.
Several town boards around the state have banned or put moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing, which injects millions of gallons of water treated with sand and chemicals to release gas and oil from rock deep underground. Opponents say more research is needed on the potential pollution of the air and underground wells by the chemicals and wastewater, but regulators have said problems are rare.
In the southern part of the state, residents have watched as drilling in the Marcellus shale has brought an economic to boom neighboring Pennsylvania communities.
Fracking was not on the ballot, but it figured prominently in campaigns as supporters and opponents worked to get out the vote for their candidates. Groups such s the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, which supports fracking, and the New York Residents Against Drilling issued their own candidate endorsements. But fracking supporters won some key victories.
Incumbents Rep. Richard Hanna and Tom Reed, in what are now the 22nd and 23rd Congressional Districts respectively, defeated anti-drilling candidates. The incumbent Broome County executive turned aside a challenge by an anti-drilling activist. Drilling opponents were also defeated in several town races.
The landowners coalition called the results a clear mandate ... in favor of natural gas development for upstate New York.
Local moratoriums on drilling are being challenged in the courts. A state moratorium has been in effect since 2008. The Department of Environmental Conservation is expected to miss a Nov. 29 deadline to issue regulations that would permit fracking and could lead to lifting the ban while the Health Department reviews the environmental study. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is conducting its own research.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has given no definitive time line on when the state reviews will be completed or a decision will be made on lifting the state moratorium. But when he does, he should pay heed to the grass-roots support shown at the polls.