Strong Support Across Party Lines Seen in Pennsylvania For Putting Emphasis on Energy Production With Minimum of Pollution; More than Four Out of Five Want Better Disclosure of Risks.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Do Pennsylvania residents think natural gas is as "clean" as it is touted as being by the energy industry? Three out of five Pennsylvanians are already very or somewhat aware of the controversy about hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") drilling used to tap cheap natural gas supplies in the state, according to a new Infogroup/Opinion Research Corporation (Infogroup/ORC) survey of 403 state residents conducted for the nonprofit Civil Society Institute (CSI). Among Pennsylvanians who already are aware of "fracking," more than four out of five are concerned about the drilling technique's possible threat to clean drinking water.
The Pennsylvania fracking survey conducted by CSI was released today along with two separate survey reports, one of which is national in scope and the other of which focuses on New York State/New York City residents. All three full survey reports are available online at http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org.
Key findings of the Pennsylvania survey include the following findings:
- More than four out of five Pennsylvania residents (81 percent) who are very/somewhat aware of fracking are "very concerned" (44 percent) or "somewhat concerned" (37 percent) "about the potential for Pennsylvania drinking water sources to be compromised by the natural gas drilling process known as 'fracking'." Concerns are strong across party lines, including 67 percent of Republicans, 94 percent of Independents and 91 percent of Democrats.
- More than three out of five Pennsylvania residents (62 percent) who are very/somewhat aware of fracking think state and federal officials are either "not doing as much as they should" (47 percent) or "not doing anything at all" (15 percent) to "require proper disclosure of the chemicals used in natural gas drilling." Democrats (73 percent) and Independents (80 percent) are more likely than Republicans (45 percent) to fault government efforts to date.
- More than three out of four Pennsylvania residents (76 percent) would tell their Member of Congress, governor or state lawmaker: "When it comes to energy production that requires large amounts of water or where water quality is in jeopardy as a result of the energy production, my vote would be for coming down on the side of the public's health and the environment. We should favor cleaner energy sources that use the least water and involve the lowest possible risk to the public and environment." Only about one five (21 percent) would say the following: "When it comes to energy production that requires large amounts of water or where water quality is in jeopardy as a result of the energy production, my view is that energy production priorities have to come first. There is always going to be some risk involved when it comes to energy production. We have to accept that there are going to be tradeoffs when it comes to the public's health and the environment." Clean water is favored over energy production by Republicans (62 percent), Independents (87 percent), and Democrats (85 percent).
In presenting the three surveys, Pam Solo, founder and president, Civil Society Institute, said: "Clean energy production is strongly favored by Americans over energy sources that create a danger to human health and safe drinking water in particular. Fracking is a perfect illustration of the fact that Americans don't think of an energy source as 'cheap' or 'clean' if there is a hidden price in terms of safe drinking water and human health. The message from our new survey is clear: Americans of all political persuasions prefer to see clean energy development that protects water supplies over traditional fossil fuel production that endangers safe drinking water and human health."
Commenting on the national, Anthony Ingraffea, PhD, P.E., Dwight C. Baum professor of engineering, Cornell University, said: "The results of this survey indicates that the public has been educated and sensitized to the issues arising from tradeoffs among energy production, the environment, and health. Americans now understand that, especially with the allure of gas production from unconventional gas plays, even 'getting it right' from a technical and regulatory point of view might still be wrong in terms of clean drinking water. The public is increasingly ready to commit to change in its energy use patterns, invest in its children's energy futures, and is no longer willing to accept the notion that a corporate business plan is the same as a national strategic energy plan."
Fracking, a technique used to extract natural gas from deep deposits, involves blasting vast amounts of water combined with chemicals and sand into the ground to release the gas from deposits. While industry experts claim that this is a relatively low-risk extraction method, there are growing concerns about the threat of contamination of drinking water supplies.
In addition to the national survey, the state-specific polls for Pennsylvania and New York State/City were conducted since: (1) Pennsylvania is a major site today for fracking-based efforts to access the enormous Marcellus Shale deposit stretching along the Appalachians from West Virginia up to the western half of the state of New York; and (2) concerns are rising that the use of hydraulic fracturing could lead to water contamination of the Catskill/Delaware River watershed that is a main source of drinking water for New York City and millions of other regional residents.
The nonprofit Civil Society Institute has carried out more than 25 major national- and state-level opinion polls on energy issues since 2003. The 100-percent independent CSI think tank receives no direct or indirect support of any kind from any natural gas industry interest, or any other energy-related company, trade group or related individual.
PENNSYLVANIA SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS
- More than two out of three Pennsylvania residents (67 percent), either "strongly support" (37 percent) or "somewhat support" (30 percent) "Pennsylvania imposing a severance tax on natural gas drilling companies." Fewer than one in three state residents (29 percent) opposes such a tax. Majority support for the tax is seen across party lines, including Republicans (51 percent), Independents (68 percent), and Democrats (81 percent).
- Seven out of 10 Pennsylvanians have at least some awareness of fracking as an issue, including "very aware" (24 percent), "somewhat aware" (36 percent), and "not very aware" (10 percent). (Thus, the smaller subset of residents who are very/somewhat aware account for three out of five adults in the state.) Fewer than one in three state residents (30 percent) say they are "not aware at all" about fracking concerns.
- More than four out of five Pennsylvania residents (82 percent, well over the national level of 73 percent) who are very/somewhat aware of fracking would be "very concerned" (67 percent compared to 58 percent nationwide) or "somewhat concerned" (15 percent) to "have such an energy project close enough to your home that there was even a small chance that it could have an impact on your drinking water." A majority of Republicans (73 percent, compared to 56 percent nationwide), Independents (89 percent) and Democrats (92 percent) would be concerned to have such a project near their home.
- More than three out of four Pennsylvania residents (79 percent, compared to 69 percent nationwide) who are very/somewhat aware of fracking would be "very likely" (45 percent) or "somewhat likely" (34 percent) to "get involved at the community level to raise concerns about … a 'fracking' project" if one was "proposed close enough to your home that there might be an impact on the quality of your drinking water." Those likely to get involved would include 72 percent of Republicans, 90 percent of Independents, and 85 percent of Democrats.
- More than four out of five Pennsylvania residents (82 percent) would "strongly support" (57 percent, compared to 49 percent nationwide) or "somewhat support" (25 percent) "tighter public disclosure requirements as well as studies of the health and environmental consequences of the chemicals used in natural gas drilling." Fewer than one in five (16 percent) would oppose requiring such additional disclosure. More disclosure is supported across party lines by Republicans (76 percent), Independents (94 percent), and Democrats (86 percent).
- Where should America focus its energy production in the future? Four out of five Pennsylvania residents agree that: "Water shortages and clean drinking water are real concerns. America should put the emphasis on first developing new energy sources that require the least water and have minimal water pollution. Fewer than one in five (16 percent) agree that: "Energy supply needs should override concerns about water shortages and water pollution. America should proceed first with developing energy sources even if they may pollute water or create water shortages." Water was favored over energy production here by Republicans (68 percent), Independents (91 percent), and Democrats (88 percent).
- Nearly four out of five Pennsylvania residents (78 percent) agree with the following statement: "Smarter energy choices are the key to creating new jobs and a future that is healthy and safe because fossil fuels create toxic wastes that are a threat to our health and safety." Only about one in five state residents (21 percent) disagrees with that statement. Supporters include 61 percent of Republicans, 82 percent of Independents and 94 percent of Democrats.
- About three out of five Pennsylvania residents (59 percent) would pay up to 10 percent or more extra for "the development of renewable energy sources that protect the air and water better than other alternatives." That includes: up to 10 percent more (29 percent); 10-25 percent more (22 percent); and 25-50 percent more (8 percent). Fewer than two of five state residents (37 percent) would pay no additional amount for cleaner energy. Those who would pay more include Republicans (49 percent), Independents (52 percent), and Democrats (75 percent).
- The number of Pennsylvania residents who would find it "very acceptable" (15 percent) if the use of "fracking" to extract natural gas "could mean somewhat lower heating bills" are outnumbered two to one by those at the other end of the spectrum who find it "not acceptable at all" (31 percent).
- While the number of Pennsylvania residents who think that it is more urgent to protect "our drinking water from chemicals used in drilling for natural gas and from the wastes generated from burning coal" (25 percent) is about eight times that who say the No. 1 concern is "addressing climate change and its impacts" (3 percent), many more (65 percent) say that "these are both major concerns of roughly equal concern." Interestingly, protecting drinking water from natural gas drilling chemicals and coal waste was the No. 1 concern of 35 percent of Republicans (compared to 26 percent nationwide), 21 percent of Independents, and only 20 percent of Democrats.
The full Pennsylvania, New York State, and national survey results are available online at http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org.
The Civil Society Institute survey of Pennsylvania attitudes about "fracking" was conducted by Infogroup/Opinion Research Corporation between November 26-30, 2010 among a sample of 403 adults comprising 193 men and 210 women, 18 years of age and older living in the state of Pennsylvania. Completed interviews are weighted by three variables: age, gender and race to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total population, 18 years of age and older. The margin of error for results based on the total sample is plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Details about the methodology of the separate New York State and national surveys are available online at http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org.
ABOUT CIVIL SOCIETY INSTITUTE
Based in Newton, MA, the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org) is a think tank that serves as a catalyst for change by creating problem-solving interactions among people, and between communities, government and business that can help to improve society. Since 2003, CSI has conducted more than 25 major national and state-level surveys on a range of issues including climate change, coal, nuclear, global warming, wind and other renewable energy, vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, consumer demand for hybrids/other highly-fuel efficient vehicles, and gas prices. In addition to being a co-convener of CLEAN (www.TheClean.org), CSI also is the parent organization of 40MPG.org (http://www.40MPG.org) and the Hybrid Owners of America (http://www.HybridOwnersofAmerica.org).
EDITOR'S NOTE: A streaming audio replay of the news event will be available on the Web at http://www.civilsocietyinstitute.org as of 3 p.m. EST on December 21, 2010. The full Pennsylvania, New York State, and national survey results are available online at http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org.
SOURCE Civil Society Institute