By BRIAN TUMULTY, Gannett Washington Bureau
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Republican Senate candidate Wendy Long accused Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Wednesday of trying to kill hydraulic fracturing in New York.
Long made the accusation at a Syracuse press conference the same day a conservative super PAC began airing a TV ad in upstate cities that attacks Gillibrand for backing a 2.3 percent excise tax on sales of some medical devices.
The tax, part of the 2010 health care reform law, is one reason the Welch Allyn company, which manufactures medical devices in Skaneateles Falls, plans to lay off 10 percent of its worldwide employees over three years, the company said.
The ad, produced by the conservative Natural Horizon super PAC, is part of a $500,000 media buy supporting Long in her long-shot bid to unseat Gillibrand.
State officials will make the final decision on how the natural gas industry uses hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation that runs through the Southern Tier and parts of western New York. But Long said members of Congress "have a great big megaphone'' to prod action on this job-creating industry.
She said Gillibrand has argued both sides of the issue, telling upstate groups she supports drilling while also "giving voice to celebrity lobbyists and the Hollywood and Manhattan crowd who have all these phony environmental concerns that they claim are about public health.''
Gillibrand supports hydraulic fracturing as long as environmental concerns are addressed, according to campaign spokesman Glen Caplin.
"If it can be done safely, then yes, we should move forward,'' Caplin said. "She understands the economic potential.''
Gillibrand, Sen. Chuck Schumer, many New York House Democrats and Republican Rep. Chris Gibson of Kinderhook are cosponsors of the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act that would require drillers to disclose the chemicals they use and give the Environmental Protection Agency more oversight of the water used in fracking.
The bill has 11 Democratic cosponsors in the Senate and 72 sponsors in the House, mostly Democrats.
Long said she hasn't decided whether drillers should publicly disclose the chemicals they use.
"I'm not a chemist,'' she said. "I'm here to talk about jobs.''
Long said the chemicals used by drillers are trade secrets, which must be balanced "against public health and safety concerns.''
"The biggest public health problem here is the lack of jobs,'' she said.
Some New York communities already have enacted local laws banning fracking.
"It's a fear campaign and it's a smear campaign and it's a propaganda campaign,'' Long said.
Long also attacked Gillibrand for allegedly misleading voters with a TV ad claiming Gillibrand has helped create manufacturing jobs in upstate New York. Long cited the recent announcement by Welch Allyn.
Gillibrand supported the 2010 law that contains the tax on medical device sales.
Gillibrand is heavily favored to win election to a full six-year term after winning her first statewide race two years ago for the remaining two years of the seat formerly held by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Even so, the race has heated up this week with the super PAC ad attacking Gillibrand and an ad Gillibrand's campaign unveiled in the New York City market highlighting her record of transparency. The ad notes Gillibrand posted her income tax returns on the Internet along with her official schedule and requests for special projects.
Gillibrand and Schumer posted their tax returns on their official Senate web sites in July. Gillibrand has posted the other information on her official web site since she was a member of the House.
Long plans to release her personal tax return on Friday.