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Long IslandPolitics

Long's Senate bid targets fracking debate

Wendy Long, shown here in a previous local

Wendy Long, shown here in a previous local appearance, is focusing her Senate campaign on the issue of natural gas exploration in New York's Southern Tier. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

ALBANY -- Republican Wendy Long is increasingly focusing her Senate campaign on the issue of natural gas exploration in New York's Southern Tier.

Thursday, Long attacked her opponent, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), for what she called aligning with celebrities, "environmental radicals" and "movie stars who own second homes" in the upstate region to block drilling. Even though natural gas drilling is, at this point, a state issue rather than federal, Long has used it as a campaign theme to tie the incumbent to New York's sluggish economy.

"She is on the side of celebrity lobbyists and far-left special interests who don't care about jobs in New York," Long said of her rival at a State Capitol news conference.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is weighing whether to allow drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations through a process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and has delayed a decision more than once. Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other states have already greenlighted drilling for shale gas.

Gillibrand has said concerns about air and water safety should be addressed before allowing drilling. A Gillibrand spokesman Thursday didn't specifically address Long's comments but called them "baseless."

"I'm not going to comment on the baseless conspiracy theories of a struggling campaign," spokesman Glen Caplin said. "As the senator has said many times before, while the Marcellus Shale represents a tremendous economic opportunity for New York, it cannot 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."

The candidates are preparing for their lone debate, slated for Wednesday in Saratoga Springs.

Long has said layoffs in Syracuse and a soon-to-be shuttered helicopter plant in Elmira are part of a "steady drumbeat of bad jobs news" that underscore the need for moving forward on natural gas.

She said natural-gas exploration could suffer "death by indecision" and its development could offset "job losses we have in other places."

Long said she believes Cuomo wants to move forward with drilling."I think he's in a lonely place and it's Kirsten Gillibrand and her allies who are making it a lonely place," the Republican said.

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