U.S. Senate Republican candidate Wendy Long fired her first "fracking" criticism at Democratic Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand on Wednesday, claiming her potential opponent will not support the natural gas recovery method she said could create thousands of jobs in New York State.
But the Gillibrand camp returned fire, noting the senator has not opposed the process but has campaigned for measures to protect the environment.
The skirmish began as Long, a Manhattan attorney competing against two other Republicans for the right to face Gillibrand in November, was en route to address the annual dinner of the Amherst Republican Committee on Wednesday evening. In a phone conversation with The Buffalo News, Long accused Gillibrand of a "failure to embrace fracking."
"I'm for energy independence and creating jobs, but she is against fracking because she is beholden to a far-left environmental lobby," Long said.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves blasting water, sand and chemicals into deep underground shale formations to release gas in areas where vertical drilling is not effective.
Long cited a University at Buffalo study that concluded state oversight and better industry practices have reduced the risk of major environmental problems from drilling in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania.
New York, which lies over vast amounts of natural gas across much of the Southern Tier, has banned fracking while the state Department of Environmental Conservation develops new regulations. Those rules, released in preliminary form last year, still are under review.
Long said that the process allows a "tolerance for risk" and that the concepts of energy independence and job creation will appeal to all voters in the general election.
But Gillibrand spokesman Glen Caplin said the senator will continue to demand safeguards.
"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," he said. "Before any drilling moves forward, she believes we must have strong controls and safeguards in place coupled with full transparency."
Long is running against Rep. Bob Turner of Queens and Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos in the June 26 Republican primary for Senate.