While Awareness of Potential Threat Lags in New York City, State Residents Are Unwilling to Trade Clean Drinking Water For Dirty Energy Production; Strong Support Seen For Putting Emphasis on Energy Production With Minimum of Pollution.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Do New Yorkers think natural gas is as "clean" as it is touted as being by the energy industry? Half of all New York state residents – but under two in five New York City residents -- are already very or somewhat aware of the controversy about hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") drilling used to tap cheap natural gas supplies, according to a new Infogroup/Opinion Research Corporation (Infogroup/ORC) survey of 838 New Yorkers conducted for the nonprofit Civil Society Institute (CSI). Among New York state residents who already are aware of "fracking," nearly nine out of 10 (88 percent) are concerned about the drilling technique's possible threat to clean drinking water for New York City.
The New York state 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 Pennsylvania residents. Full survey reports are available at http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org.
Key findings of the New York State survey include the following findings:
- Half of New York residents are "very aware" (22 percent) or "somewhat aware" (28 percent) of fracking as a water pollution issue, with fewer than two in five state residents (37 percent) saying they are "not aware at all" of fracking-related concerns. Interestingly, the numbers are roughly reversed in New York City, where over half (53 percent) of residents are unaware of fracking as an issue, with only 38 percent "very aware" (16 percent) or "somewhat aware" (22 percent).
- While most New York state residents (and fewer New York City residents) are at least somewhat aware of "fracking," a smaller number are aware that "concerns have been expressed that the natural gas drilling process known as 'fracking' could lead to water contamination of the Catskill/Delaware River watershed that provides drinking water for New York City." Only about two out of five state residents were "very aware" (15 percent) or "somewhat aware" (26 percent) of the possible threat to New York City's drinking water, compared to 41 percent who were "not aware at all." Closer to half (46 percent) of New York City residents were "not aware at all," compared to 38 percent who are aware, including "very aware" (14 percent) and "somewhat aware" (24 percent).
- However, nearly nine out of 10 New York state residents (88 percent) who are very/somewhat aware that fracking could have an impact on a main source of drinking water for New York City are "very concerned" (54 percent) or "somewhat concerned" (34 percent) "about the potential for New York City drinking water sources to be compromised by the natural gas drilling process known as 'fracking'." An even stronger 93 percent of New York City residents who are already aware of the issue have such concerns, including more than three out of four (77 percent) who are "very concerned" and 15 percent who are "somewhat concerned."
- Nearly two out of three New York state residents (65 percent) say that it would not be acceptable if the use of "fracking" to extract natural gas "could mean somewhat lower heating bills. About three out of five New York City residents (59 percent) expressed the same view.
- An identical two out of three New York state and New York City residents who are very/somewhat aware of "fracking" think state and federal officials are either "not doing as much as they should" (49 percent) or "not doing anything at all" (17 percent) to "require proper disclosure of the chemicals used in natural gas drilling."
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 and New York state surveys, 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 New York state/City and Pennsylvania were conducted since: (1) 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; and (2) 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.
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.
NEW YORK SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS
- Two out of three New York state and New York City residents who are very/somewhat aware of fracking think state and federal officials are either "not doing as much as they should" (49 percent) or "not doing anything at all" (17 percent) to "require proper disclosure of the chemicals used in natural gas drilling."
- More than four out of five New York state residents (83 percent) would "strongly support" (59 percent, compared to 49 percent nationwide) or "somewhat support" (24 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 (14 percent) would oppose requiring such additional disclosure. Support in New York City is at the same level of 83 percent, though an even higher 62 percent say they "strongly support" stronger disclosure requirements.
- More than four out of five New York state residents (81 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 in five (12 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 the same number of New York City residents, versus 11 percent who would place the greater emphasis on energy production.
- Where should America focus its energy production in the future? Four out of five New York state residents (84 percent) and even more New York City residents (87 percent) 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 New York state residents (12 percent) and only one in 10 New York City residents 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 (79 percent), Independents (83 percent), and Democrats (87 percent).
- A roughly equal share of New York state residents (81 percent) and New York City residents (82 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." Fewer than one in five New Yorkers (15 percent both statewide and in New York City) disagrees with that statement.
- About two out of three New York state residents (69 percent) and slightly fewer New York City residents (63 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." Statewide, that includes: up to 10 percent more (31 percent); 10-25 percent more (27 percent); and 25-50 percent more (11 percent). Fewer than three out of 10 statewide residents (28 percent) would pay no additional amount for cleaner energy. For New York City, the percentages are: up to 10 percent more (29 percent); 10-25 percent more (21 percent); and 25-50 percent more (13 percent). Slightly more than one out of three New York City residents (35 percent) would pay no additional amount for cleaner energy.
- While the number of New York state 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" (23 percent) is about three times that who say the No. 1 concern is "addressing climate change and its impacts" (7 percent), many more (66 percent) say that "these are both major concerns of roughly equal concern." Even more New York City residents put the No. 1 priority on drinking water protection (26 percent) over climate change solutions (6 percent), with nearly two out of three (64 percent) saying both priorities are of equal concern.
The full New York state, Pennsylvania and national survey results are available online at http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org.
The Civil Society Institute survey of New York state/New York City attitudes about "fracking" was conducted by Infogroup/Opinion Research Corporation between November 26-30, 2010 among a sample of 838 adults comprising 402 men and 436 women, 18 years of age and older living in the state of New York. 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 3 percentage points.
Details about the methodology of the separate Pennsylvania and national survey results 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 New York State, Pennsylvania, and national survey results are available online at http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org.
SOURCE Civil Society Institute