NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A poll shows New York voters nearly evenly divided on natural gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

The Siena Research Institute poll released Monday says voters statewide were split 40-40 percent when asked if the Department of Environmental Conservation should lift a 4 1/2-year-old moratorium on fracking. The remaining 20 percent had no opinion.

LINK: See The Full Poll Here

In the Southern Tier region where drilling would most likely start, the poll showed 48 percent opposed and 47 percent favored lifting the ban.

“Today’s Siena poll reaffirms what has been obvious for months: New Yorkers clearly see the economic benefit that will come from safe natural gas development in the Southern Tier,” New York State Petroleum Council Executive Director Karen Moreau said in a statement.

The poll found opponents of fracking were far more passionate in their positions than supporters were.

“As New Yorkers break through the gas industry’s propaganda and lies, the more New Yorkers are opposed to this dangerous and toxic practice. The more that people learn the truth about this dangerous practice, the more the opposition will grow,” Alex Beauchamp of Food & Water Watch said in a statement issued by  New Yorkers Against Fracking.

The agency has a Feb. 27 deadline to complete fracking regulations or let them expire.

The telephone poll conducted Jan. 27-31 surveyed 1,154 registered voters and has a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers are expected to question Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens about fracking.

Later Monday, Arun Gandhi, grandson of nonviolent protest leader Mahatma Gandhi, will be among those presenting a “pledge of resistance” to fracking to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo has said his budget doesn’t include increased spending for fracking regulation because DEC hasn’t completed its environmental review and decided whether to end a 4 1/2-year-old moratorium.

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