Survey Says Water Is More Important than Gas

Are people concerned about potential impacts of natural gas development on their water?  Yes they are. 

The nonprofit Civil Society Institute has released results from a new survey about people’s opinions on natural gas development.  This is the first national poll to gauge the attitudes of Americans on the subject.  In addition to the national survey, state-specific polls for Pennsylvania and New York 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.

As you may recall, American Rivers listed the Upper Delaware as America’s Most Endangered River of 2010 for the precise issue of contamination from natural gas extraction.  This survey demonstrates that this is a real concern among residents of New York and Pennsylvania, as well as across the country.

Where should America focus its energy production in the future? According to this survey, more than four out of five Americans (81%) agree that: “Water shortages and clean drinking water are real concerns. America should put the emphasis on first developing new energy sources that require the least water and have minimal water pollution.” Only about one in 10 agree that: “Energy supply needs should override concerns about water shortages and water pollution. America should proceed first with developing energy sources even if they may pollute water or create water shortages.” Water was favored over energy production here by Republicans (71%), Independents (88%), and Democrats (89%).

In addition, three out of four Americans agree with the following statement: “Smarter energy choices are the key to creating new jobs and a future that is healthy and safe because fossil fuels create toxic wastes that are a threat to our health and safety.”

Since Americans want to decrease dependence on dirty fossil fuels, in 2011, American Rivers will continue to work on the issue of natural gas extraction to protect water supplies in shale regions throughout the country.  We are hopeful that regulators, legislators, and the industry are beginning to realize that if we are going to do this, it must be done right, and in a way that does not harm our communities and the environment.