The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

December 21, 2010

Pa. residents worried about fracking, poll shows

Drilling industry questions findings

JOHNSTOWN — A majority of the Pennsylvania residents surveyed in a recent poll are concerned about potential harm to drinking water as a result of the fracturing process used in drilling for Marcellus Shale natural gas.

Of the 403 adults surveyed in the late November poll by Infogroup/Opinion Research Corp., 81 percent said they are somewhat or very concerned about fracking’s potential to contaminate water.

Three of five state residents questioned in the poll are aware of the controversy over the gas-drilling technique.

The poll, conducted on behalf of the Civil Society Institute, showed that 62 percent of those concerned think state and federal agencies are not doing as much as they should to require proper disclosure of the chemicals used in the process.

The institute, based in Newton, Mass.,  describes itself as a nonprofit and nonpartisan think tank. Its goal is to serve as a catalyst for change by creating problem-solving interactions among people and between communities, government and businesses that can help to improve society.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry-based group supported by gas drillers and businesses that benefit from the industry, described the survey as a “push poll.” The term is used to describe a technique often used in political campaigns to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll.

Kathryn Klaber, coalition president, said the questions in the poll were overwhelmingly structured to generate predetermined outcomes.

“One thing is clear: Our industry must continue to educate communities about the steps we’re taking each day to protect and strengthen the environment while delivering clean-burning, job-creating energy to American consumers,” Klaber said in a statement.

Klaber said the institute purposely omitted critical facts about shale development, including information that fracturing is a 60-year-old technology used more than 1.1 million times.

Fracturing has never impacted ground water, something Klaber said can be confirmed by state and federal environmental agencies and the Groundwater Protection Council.

But Pam Solo, founder and president of the institute, said in a statement: “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 process that pumps large amounts of water along with sand and chemicals into the shale bed under high pressure to release the natural gas.

In addition to the polling in Pennsylvania, similar questions were asked of residents in New York and other areas of the United States, the Civil Society Institute said.

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