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Marcellus Drilling: Economic Boost vs Environmental Threat

drill rig_WCN247 flickr.jpg

More than 70% of tri-state area citizens see Marcellus Shale drilling as a chance to give the local economy a boost, but eight in ten residents believe drilling poses at least a slight threat to the environment and public health.

This new data comes from a 120-question regional survey and released by PittsburghTODAY and the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for Social and Urban Research.  Telephone interviews were conducted with some 2,200 men and women residing in the seven-county Pittsburgh Statistical Metropolitan Area and in 25 surrounding counties in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland. 

Most of the questions related to the economics or environmental impact of drilling.

Economic Support

  • More tri-state residents overall support drilling than oppose it 45 percent to 25 percent, with the remainder undecided. 
  • More than 70 percent of all those surveyed feel that extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale offers a significant or moderate economic opportunity for the region.  That figures goes up to 76 percent in Washington County.

Environmental Concern

  • Eight in 10 tri-state residents believe drilling poses at least a slight threat to the environment and public health.
  • 55 percent see drilling as either a significant or moderate threat to the environment or public health. 58 percent feel this way in Washington County. 
  • 17 percent believe drilling poses no or little threat to the environment or public health. 

430 residents of Washington County were surveyed, and  Doug Heuck, director of PittsburghTODAY, said it only makes sense to sample the people closest to Marcellus.
“We oversampled Washington County with the survey, specifically on the Marcellus question because we really wanted to know what the opinions and the behaviors and attitudes were of the people who view the Marcellus most close up so to speak.”

Washington County was home to 656 natural gas wells as of July 2012, and nearly 32 percent of Washington County residents report they have signed a drilling lease. To compare, Allegheny County only had 13 wells, and 14 percent of residents in the other measured counties reported signing a drilling lease. 

Of those polled in Washington County, 22 percent said they have been affected personally by drilling activities.  That compares to 11 percent for the entire surveyed region.

WESA will be surveying Pennsylvania candidates for federal and state office for the 2022 general election — tell us which issues are most important to you.