The New York Times reports that a local issue in gas exploration in the state’s 22nd Congressional District might provide more incentive for constituents to remove Maurice Hinchey from his House seat.  The district holds significant natural-gas deposits in the Marcellus Shale find, but Hinchey adamantly opposes drilling and hydraulic fracturing to get to the resource, a process better known in the area as “fracking.”  His attempts to shut down the industry has even some environmentalists angry over blocking what they see as access to a clean-burning energy resource, and George Phillips‘ strong support for the industry may account for his rise in the polling:

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) has been an outspoken critic of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale and an advocate of federal regulation of fracturing. His opponent, Republican George Phillips, thinks state regulation is best and supports “aggressive” development once regulators sign off.

And Phillips attributes his support for drilling as a major reason for his late surge in the polls.

“It’s a huge factor,” said Phillips campaign spokesman Jazz Shaw. “The No. 1 issue is jobs. But this is probably the No. 2 issue.”

Hinchey’s camp disagrees about the prominence of the issue among voters but says that Phillips’ position has won him crucial financial support from oil and gas companies in the waning weeks of the election.

“The natural gas issue is important among certain constituencies,” said Hinchey spokesman Mike Morosi. “But the natural gas industry is funding advertising against Congressman Hinchey based on his position on drilling.”

Actually, not to contradict my good friend and Green Room contributor Jazz Shaw, but this is actually a jobs issue as well as a separate debate on environmental balance.  Development of the Marcellus Shale deposit will enhance domestic production of energy, which not only creates jobs but well-paying, union jobs of the kind desired by voters in NY-22.  It will also help moderate energy prices in the future, a policy which if adopted on a broad scale here in the US would result in higher investment, lower overhead, and more jobs.  It’s precisely the kind of policy that encourages growth rather than imposes stagnation, which is what Hinchey is essentially selling to his constituents.

Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani has seen enough of Hinchey, too.  Yesterday, Giuliani announced his endorsement of Phillips, emphasizing these very issues:

“In today’s troubled economic environment, more than ever we need government policies which promote a climate of entrepreneurship and job creation rather than the current Democratic plans for higher taxes and suppression of growth. Maurice Hinchey has clearly stated his intention to raise taxes on our nation’s farmers and small to medium business owners if he is sent back to Congress for yet another term. George Phillips has pledged to provide relief to our job creators and workers, and I encourage all the residents of New York’s 22nd district to send him to Congress.”

American Crossroads has a new ad running in the district this weekend, called “Hand,” but could just as easily be called “Shaddap!”

For more on this incident, read my post on Hinchey’s later physical altercation with the reporter. The question Hinchey didn’t want to answer was the connection between Hinchey’s pork requests for the Partition Street Project and the connections to the project to himself and one of his business partners.

Tags: New York