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[Carl Campanile, New York Post]

Former US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson gave a qualified endorsement yesterday to Gov. Cuomo’s effort to pursue fracking.

“Natural gas is the future. It is here,” said Richardson, who headed the Energy Department under former President Bill Clinton.

Richardson’s expression of support for the exploration of shale drilling for natural gas came during a panel discussion on renewable energy sponsored by Cuomo and the state Democratic Party at the Sheraton New York.

But he stressed the evidence must show that fracking can be done in an environmentally safe manner.

“If there is going to be fracking, it’s got to be done right,” he said.

Minutes after Richardson’s comments, two anti-frackers who slipped into the conference staged a demonstration, claiming that deep drilling would poison the water supply. One protester sipped from a glass and fell down after pretending to faint.

The policymakers in attendance cheered when a state trooper escorted her out of the room.

During an interview afterward, Richardson praised Cuomo’s methodical review of the fracking issue.

“The governor is approaching this right, doing it with a lot of data,” he said.

“Fracking is doable if there’s full disclosure of all chemicals used. Secondly, science dictates the policy rather than politics. Third, there’s collaboration between environmental groups and the natural gas industry.”

Richardson stressed there must be strong regulation and said if there’s any doubt, he’d “err on the side of protecting” groundwater.

After the panel discussion, Cuomo said, “We will make the [fracking] decision based on the facts.”

He said currently there is a “lot of emotion” and “very little information” about the real benefits and concerns about fracking in upstate’s gas-rich Marcellus Shale region that borders Pennsylvania.

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