Public Awareness & Opinion

SURVEY: DRINKING WATER POLLUTION CONCERNS FUELING AWARENESS AMONG AMERICANS OF ‘FRACKING’ USED TO EXTRACT NATURAL GAS.

SURVEY: DRINKING WATER POLLUTION CONCERNS FUELING AWARENESS AMONG AMERICANS OF “FRACKING” USED TO EXTRACT NATURAL GAS–  survey conducted for the nonprofit Civil Society Institute (CSI)

Americans Unwilling to Trade Clean Drinking Water For Dirty Energy Production; Strong Support Across Party Lines Seen For Putting Emphasis on Energy Production With Minimum of Pollution.

WASHINGTON, D.C.///December 21, 2010///Do Americans think natural gas is as “clean” as it is touted as being by the energy industry? Nearly half of Americans (45 percent) are already very or somewhat aware of the controversy about hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) drilling used to tap cheap natural gas supplies in the U.S., according to a new Infogroup/Opinion Research Corporation (Infogroup/ORC) survey conducted for the nonprofit Civil Society Institute (CSI). Among Americans who already are aware of “fracking,” more than two out of three (69 percent) are concerned about the drilling technique’s possible threat to clean drinking water.

The U.S. fracking survey conducted by CSI – the first national poll to gauge the attitudes of Americans on the subject – was released today along with two separate survey reports for more than 800 New York State/New York City residents and over 400 Pennsylvanians. The national and two state-specific reports are available at http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org.

Key findings of the national survey include the following findings:

More than three out of four Americans (78 percent) would “strongly” (49 percent) or “somewhat” (29 percent) support “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 (74 percent), Independents (72 percent), and Democrats (85 percent).
Over half of Americans (56 percent) who are very/somewhat aware of fracking think state and federal officials are either “not doing as much as they should” (42 percent) or “not doing anything at all” (14 percent) to “require proper disclosure of the chemicals used in natural gas drilling.”
Nearly three out of five (72 percent) Americans say that they would tell their Member of Congress, governor or state lawmaker 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 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 (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 (80 percent), and Democrats (82 percent).

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 survey, 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.

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.

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.

Other Polls and Analysis of Their Validity

As far as I can tell the Marist poll (May, 2011) seems to give equal weight to the opinions of the informed and the opinions of the uninformed – and that could have skewed the results of its poll..   Last December, the Civil Society Institute released several surveys that included more in depth questioning, and also made an effort to distinguish between respondents who were aware of the subject and those who were not.  (I’m not a statistician, but I have to believe that opinions voiced by the uninformed or under-informed are “softer”  than the opinions of individuals who are familiar with the subject at hand.)  The CSI polls produced very different results.   Including:

“Among those aware of fracking, nearly nine out of 10 New York state residents (86%) are concerned about the issue and how it relates to water quality.”

It’s hard to see how these concerns would have been ameliorated by recent news including the well blowout in Bradford County, PA and the Ian Urbina investigative series in the NY Times.
Bruce

and more
DRINKING WATER POLLUTION CONCERNS FUELING AWARENESS OF FRACKING 
Americans Unwilling to Trade Clean Drinking Water For Dirty Energy Production. An overview of the survey conducted by the Civil Society Institute. December 21, 2010.

“FRACKING” AND CLEAN WATER: 
A survey of 1,012 Americans conducted in November shows that the issues related to hydraulic fracturing (known as “fracking”) are emerging as a concern as they relate to drinking water safety. Conducted for the Civil Society Institute. December 21, 2010.

SURVEY: HALF OF NEW YORK STATE RESIDENTS ARE AWARE OF NYC DRINKING WATER POLLUTION CONCERNS TIED TO NATURAL GAS “FRACKING” 
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. A summary of the Civil Society Institute poll. December 21, 2010. 

SURVEY: WATER POLLUTION FROM NATURAL GAS “FRACKING” A CONCERN FOR FOUR OUT OF FIVE PENNSYLVANIANS AWARE OF THE PROCESS 
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. The Civil Society Institute, December 21, 2010. 

“FRACKING” AND CLEAN WATER: A SURVEY OF PENNSYLVANIA RESIDENTS 
A survey conducted in November 2010 shows that the issue of hydraulic fracturing (known as “fracking”) is already a major concern as it relates to drinking water safety. The Civil Society Institute.

New York Opinon Index Empire State Poll 2010
New Yorkers attitude toward natural gas drilling from the Cornell University Survey Research Institute.

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