-David Conti

Support for the use of fracking by the natural gas industry is growing with awareness despite concerns about potential damage to the environment, a new poll by Robert Morris University shows.

About 56 percent of 1,003 people polled nationwide said they support hydraulic fracturing from shale, up from 42 percent in November 2013. The increase tracked overall knowledge of the process, which grew to nearly 71 percent from 45 percent nationwide, and was up to nearly 74 percent among 529 Pennsylvania residents polled last month.

“It appears most of the awareness is driven from industry awareness,” said mechanical engineering professor Tony Kerzmann, who serves on the advisory board of the Robert Morris University Polling Institute.

The online poll, which was sponsored by Trib Total Media, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points for Pennsylvania results and plus or minus 3 percentage points for the national numbers.

More than 73 percent of national respondents (74 percent in Pennsylvania) said pulling gas from shale has the potential to help the economy, and 69 percent nationally said fracking will help the country move to energy independence.

Kerzmann noted that more knowledge of fracking — part of the overall extraction process — has brought awareness of its potential impacts. About 61 percent of respondents in the state and nationwide agreed that fracking can contaminate water supplies and 48.5 percent of those polled nationally (50 percent in Pennsylvania) agreed that methane released at well sites can contribute to climate change.

“It seems people are willing to accept short-term environmental issues and long-term climate effects,” Kerzmann said.


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