Despite a recent spate of negative media attention, hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) in the Marcellus Shale is still supported by a majority of the general public, according to the results of a poll conducted by the Rochester Business Journal (RBJ).

A total of 57% of respondents said they favor the use of high-volume hydrofracking in the Marcellus — 26% under any circumstance and 31% under the condition that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) certify the practice safe — while 43% oppose hydrofracking, according to the survey of more than 825 RBJ readers conducted Feb. 28-March 1.

Last December former Gov. David Paterson extended until July 1 a deadline for the DEC to prepare a supplemental generic environmental impact statement on hydrofracking (see Shale Daily, Dec. 14, 2010). Acting DEC Commissioner Joe Martens has said the agency’s updated draft regulations could be completed in June, slightly ahead of schedule (see Shale Daily, Feb. 10).

Hydrofracking was the target of an article in the New York Times last week, which claimed that radium in drilling wastewater is affecting drinking water supplies (see Shale Daily, March 1). Allegations made in the article have been disputed by the Marcellus Shale Coalition and others, including former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary John Hanger, who said the story was “deliberately misleading.”

DEP on Monday said recent tests of river water collected downstream of Marcellus water treatment plants indicated that radiation levels were “at or below the normal naturally occurring background levels” (see related story).

Just 16% of respondents to the RBJ poll said natural gas should be the top priority for meeting the nation’s future energy needs. Renewables (45%) and nuclear (31%) proved more popular than gas, while oil (7%) and coal (1%) received less support.

A poll conducted in northeastern Pennsylvania last year found that public opinion was “largely supportive” of development of Marcellus Shale production, with 50% of respondents indicating it would be beneficial to their community (see Shale Daily, Oct. 8, 2010). Only 28% of respondents said Marcellus Shale development would be detrimental to their community, according to researchers at Lycoming College’s Center for the Study of Community and the Economy.