Wednesday, November 16, 2011

PA residents don't know who to believe about fracking

A University of Michigan poll released today concludes that "Pennsylvanians have significant doubts about the credibility of the media, environmental groups and scientists on the issue of natural gas drilling using "fracking" methods."

Those surveyed also believe the state's governor, Tom Corbett, is too closely aligned with companies involved in fracking in Pennsylvania, which is on the front line of a growing national and international debate about the industry.

The poll, one of the most extensive recent surveys on fracking, was conducted by the Muhlenberg Institute of Public Opinion in collaboration with the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

It's authors say the poll findings "raise serious questions about where Pennsylvanians should seek credible information and leadership on an issue that is becoming increasingly important to the state's economy and environment."

The Muhlenberg/Michigan poll found that 84 percent of those surveyed strongly agreed that drilling companies should have to disclose the chemicals used in fracking.
The survey also found that:
  • 44 percent of those polled say they somewhat or strongly agree the media are overstating the environmental impacts of fracking, while 41 percent say they somewhat or strongly disagree.
  • 48 percent say they somewhat or strongly agree that environmental groups are overstating the impacts of the drilling, while 39 percent say they somewhat or strongly disagree.
  • 34 percent say they somewhat or strongly agree that scientists are overstating the impacts of fracking, while 42 percent say they somewhat or strongly disagree.
There was also distrust in the government, with 60 percent saying they either strongly or somewhat agreed that natural gas companies have too much influence on Gov. Corbett's decisions about regulating drilling. Only 14 percent say they strongly or somewhat agree.

Despite the concerns and doubts, 41 percent of those polled say that so far fracking has provided more benefits than problems to Pennsylvania, and 33 percent say it has caused more problems. The survey says 50 percent expect more benefits than problems in the future, while 32 percent expect more problems.

Click here to access a full copy (PDF) of the survey and related materials.
Interesting, isn't it, that it takes a University of Michigan poll to document public suspicion about the "facts" surrounding fracking, while Penn State University reports have been highly supportive of the gas drilling industry.

[We recommend that you listen to This American Life's Episode 440 GAME CHANGER
Summary: "A professor in Pennsylvania makes a calculation, to discover that his state is sitting atop a massive reserve of natural gas—enough to revolutionize how America gets its energy. But another professor in Pennsylvania does a different calculation and reaches a troubling conclusion: that getting natural gas out of the ground poses a risk to public health. Two men, two calculations, and two very different consequence."]

Penn State's credibility has already been dealt a severe blow by the Sandusky child-abuse scandal.  The university's next president should use the opportunity for 'house cleaning' to examine more than the credibility of the sports program.  He or she should also examine whether gas industry sponsorship of faculty and student research has become a threat to the university's scientific impartiality and
scholastic independence.  

Bob Hanna to replace Lee Solomon at the NJBPU
Lee Solomon leaving top NJBPU post for the bench


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