Last Tuesday, the University of Michigan released a report highlighting growing local concerns about the risks of fracking in two states with two very different fracking-histories— Michigan, where there has been relatively little fracking, and Pennsylvania, where fracking growth has been explosive in the last five years.
The report —which summarizes a survey of resident views on a number of issues related to fracking—demonstrates that while support for fracking in both states hovers around 50% (51% in Michigan and 49% in Pennsylvania), concerns about the risks of fracking are as high or higher. For example, 51% of Michiganders and 59% of Pennsylvanians agreed that fracking poses a "major risk" to water resources. And this is perhaps why overwhelming numbers of residents in both states (90% in Michigan and 91% in Pennsylvania) supported disclosure of all the fracking chemicals that gas companies pump into the ground.
Perhaps the most telling indicator of growing public concern is that a majority in both states supported a statewide moratorium in order to allow the risks of fracking to be further studied. In Michigan, 52% supported a moratorium, and in Pennsylvania—where residents are more likely to live next to an active frack well—the idea of a statewide moratorium received 58% support.
The comparatively higher percentage of Pennsylvanians skeptical of fracking may come as a surprise given the state’s perceived strong support for drilling, but the numbers could be explained by personal experience. This past Sunday, Times Tribune writer Laura Legere revealed that roughly one in six investigations of gas well complaints by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection over the past five years have found that “oil and gas activity disrupted water supplies either temporarily or seriously enough to require companies to replace the spoiled source.” (To see the article, click here).
Even in New York, where residents presently enjoy a de facto moratorium on drilling, a vertical Marcellus test well in Owego, NY has already contaminated a water supply with methane. With stories like these, it’s no wonder that popular support for NY’s fracking moratorium continues to grow.
Ultimately, the new polling results and reports from Pennsylvania and other shale bearing states underscore the public’s increasing realization that the ultimate risks of fracking (including the public health risks) are not yet truly known. And the popular solution to this problem is simple: wait until we know more.