The debate over hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is sparking concerns about drinking water safety in the Marcellus Shale area and nationwide, according to the results of a trio of surveys released by the nonprofit Civil Society Institute (CSI).
The surveys, which were conducted Nov. 26-30 by Infogroup/Opinion Research Corp., also found that a majority of Pennsylvanians would support a severance tax on natural gas drilling companies in the state.
In a survey of 403 Pennsylvania residents, 70% of respondents indicated that they were aware of the fracking issue, and 82% of that group said they would be "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" to have a fracking operation close enough to their home "that there was even a small chance" that it could have an impact on drinking water. Strong majorities of those who said they were aware of the fracking issue also said they would be likely to get involved at the community level to oppose fracking projects near their home (79%) and would support "tighter public disclosure requirements as well as studies of the health and environmental consequences of the chemicals used in natural gas drilling" (82%). Four out of five respondents said the country should focus on developing new energy sources "that require the least water and have minimal water pollution," according to CSI.
A separate survey of 838 New York state residents found less awareness of the fracking issue (50%), but a similar level of concern (88%) about the drilling technique's possible threat to drinking water for New York City. Nearly two out of three New Yorkers (65%) said they would not support the use of fracking to extract gas in exchange for "somewhat lower heating bills" and, like a majority of respondents in the Pennsylvania survey, most (66%) said they want state and federal officials to require "proper disclosure of the chemicals used in natural gas drilling."
In a survey of 1,012 adults nationwide, CSI said 78% of respondents indicated they would support tighter public disclosure requirements and studies of the health and environmental consequences of fracking chemicals. More than half (56%) of those who said they were aware of fracking and think state and federal officials aren't doing enough to require disclosure of those chemicals, and 72% said public health and the environment should be higher priorities than energy production using large amounts of water or jeopardizing water quality.
The Pennsylvania survey also found that 67% of respondents would support a severance tax on natural gas drilling companies in the state, while just 29% said they oppose such a tax. Support for the severance tax was seen among Democrats (81%), Republicans (51%) and independents (68%), CSI said.
Despite commitments during this year's budget negotiations to pass a severance tax on gas drillers, Pennsylvania lawmakers balked on the issue during a lame duck session last month (see Shale Daily, Nov. 18). Gov.-elect Tom Corbett, who is preparing to take office in January, pledged during his campaign not to raise any taxes, which would include enacting a severance tax. Last month he said he was appointing a task force to advise him on "reasonable" drilling practices (see Shale Daily, Nov. 15).