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Pennsylvanians Cautiously Support Shale Gas Industry, Says Poll

A poll released by Franklin & Marshall College shows that Pennsylvanians still have a favorable view of the natural gas industry, indicating general support for shale production, but questioning more strongly the potential environmental risks associated with it.

In a poll of 423 registered state voters conducted March 19-26 by the Lancaster, PA-based college, 50% said they either “strongly” support or “somewhat” support “the extraction of natural gas from shale deposits in Pennsylvania.” Another 42% said they strongly or somewhat oppose shale production, while 9% said they didn’t know.  

However, more than half of those polled, 55%, said the “potential environmental risks of drilling outweigh the potential economic benefits.” That’s up from 35% in August 2011 and 37% in January 2014 when pollsters also asked the question. In the latest poll, 30% of respondents said the “economic benefits outweigh the possible environmental damage,” which is down from 39% in August 2011 and 40% in January 2014. Other respondents said they don’t know.

When asked, two-thirds (67%) of the respondents said the state should do more to address climate change, while 69% said the state should do more to pursue energy policies that prioritize the availability of renewable energy such as solar and wind. About 18% said fossil fuel extraction should be prioritized, while 7% said the best value resources for consumers should be pursued and another 6% said they don’t know.

Pennsylvania is already one of the nation’s leading energy generators, topping categories in nuclear power generation, natural gas production, coal production and even solar and wind capacity. The state is the second largest natural gas producer behind Texas, with 5.4 Tcf of unconventional production in 2017.

Most of the respondents, or 37%, were from central Pennsylvania, where some natural gas drilling occurs, and most, or 21%, were between the ages of 45 and 54. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 6.8 percentage points.

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