A new non-partisan poll released today shows that a majority of Americans who are familiar with the process of hydraulic fracturing - or "fracking" - are worried about its health and environmental impacts.
The survey, conducted by the Infogroup/Opinion Research Corp., reveals that among respondents who indicated that they are "very aware" or "somewhat aware" of the process, 69 percent are very or somewhat concerned about water quality issues. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said that they have some awareness of fracking, with 43 percent claiming to be either "very" or "somewhat" aware. In New York, fully 50 percent identify as very or somewhat aware (though in New York City - where the drinking water of 8 million New Yorkers is at risk should fracking be allowed to proceed in the Marcellus Shale that underlies its watershed - a majority claimed to be unaware).
For those of us who have been working on this issue, this is a rather remarkable result. I think if I'd been asked a year ago what percentage of Americans I thought had heard of fracking, my (admittedly unscientific) answer would have been somewhere south of 15%.
It seems clear that some significant amount of this increased awareness is attributable to the enormously popular documentary "Gasland," as well as to the increasing attention the issue is receiving in the mainstream media. But I also believe that the extraordinary developments that New York State has taken to ensure, thus far, that no new controversial fracking is permitted to occur until the risks have been fully evaluated must deserve some credit.
We have long argued that New York has the opportunity to serve as a national model of how to hold off big oil and gas until assurances that adequate safeguards to protect human health and the environment are in place. If these new poll results are accurate, they suggest that New York's ongoing leadership on this issue does offer the prospect of increasing national awareness of the concerns and, in turn, strengthened regulation in the 24 other states in which gas development is currently occurring. We look now to Governor-Elect Cuomo to confirm New York's commitment to heeding public concerns and ensuring new fracking doesn't happen unless it's been shown to be safe.