Energy. Environment. Economy.

Poll Shows Support for a Drilling Moratorium in Pennsylvania

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A drill rig in Susquehanna County.

A new poll out Tuesday shows strong support for a moratorium on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania, despite showing general support for gas extraction.

The Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan, in conjunction with the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, surveyed both Pennsylvania and Michigan residents on fracking. The survey shows general support for gas extraction in Pennsylvania. Forty-nine percent of respondents approve, and 40 percent oppose.

But almost two-thirds support a drilling moratorium in order to study the risks. Pollster and University of Michigan professor Barry Rabe says that’s not such a contradiction.

“A moratorium is not a ban,” says Rabe. “A moratorium is taking some time out and taking some time to develop a policy and process as opposed to completely prohibiting. So if there is a mixture of possible benefits and risks, support for a moratorium might be viewed as a way to view all those risks and minimize them before going forward.”

Most polled view Pennsylvania’s natural gas reserves as a public, rather than a private resource. And 59 percent of those polled view fracking as a major risk to water resources. When it comes to full disclosure of fracking ingredients, 81 percent of Pennsylvania residents “strongly agree.”

Rabe says the support for full chemical disclosure cuts across party lines.

“However we frame that question, you do have pretty overwhelming numbers in favor of disclosure even when you link it to the issue of trade secrets,” said Rabe.

Pennsylvania requires drillers to list well-by-well chemicals, which are publicized online. But companies do not have to disclose what they deem “trade secrets.” The poll has a margin of error of five percent.


  • vrlc58

    Corbett and his ilk do not represent the people of PA. The only “people” he and they represent are the corporations who pay him to do their bidding.

  • Patrick Henderson

    Act 13 of 2012, which amended Pennsylvania’s Oil and Gas Act and contains some of the most protective standards for the environment in the nation, does in fact require operators to disclose to the state Department of Environmental Protection all chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process. This includes anything that may be designated a “trade secret”. See Section 3222 of Title 58, PA CS. The law withholds the disclosure of protected trade secrets as required under the Right to Know law and comparable federal trade secret protection law – but the state does get all the information.

    Patrick Henderson, Energy Executive

    Office of Gov. Tom Corbett

    • john slesinger

      Mr Henderson, this law that requires operators to disclose chemicals to the DEP is like having a convicted sex offender register at the adult bookstore. Maybe you could pass on to Corbett that rather than help the drillers use the DEP to skirt the law, maybe the DEP could do their job and hold the drillers accountable for their mistakes. How long has it been since diesel fuel was banned as a fracking chemical? Why do I have pictures of fuel oil being piped into fracking plumbing? and why at the recent blowout was diesel fuel found as one of the chemicals released? The ” public servants” in Hburg won’t help us. We cannot give up this fight, there is no one else. I will bet you don’t have the guts to contact me and get proof of the actions of the DEP.

      • Iris Marie Bloom

        John is absolutely right, and Mr. Henderson’s claim that Act 13 is “protective” is absurd. Act 13 allows drilling, fracking, waste pits, compressor stations, and radioactive drill cuttings to spew toxic substances into air, water and soil at an incredible rate, with tiny, unacceptably dangerous setbacks. But back to the original story: Pennsylvanians’ intelligence is affirmed by this poll! Despite a largely unimpressive silence on the part of most mainstream media, Pennsylvania residents know that both residents and workers are being badly harmed and sometimes killed by this industry. No matter how many residents are displaced, and/or are silenced by gas industry settlements with non-disclosure clauses, when people’s water goes bad, when their animals get sick and are born deformed and dead; when animals refuse to drink the water that used to be clean, when people get blistered throats from flaring — when their children get sick, when adults develop skin lesions and respiratory distress — word gets around. Two-thirds of Pennsylvanians support a moratorium for good reason! Now if every one of those two-thirds would call their PA State Senator and their PA State Rep to demand a substantial moratorium — say, fifteen years, long enough to determine whether the carcinogens entering our watersheds and foodsheds are having a cascading impact — then we would get somewhere! Yo, silent majority, show some muscle already!

        • john slesinger

          This industry is far too dangerous to go unregulated. Right now the lack of enforcement of the existing regulations show new regulations are not the answer. The industry would pay what is necessary to get the gas so there is no reason not to make them do it right. Public servants are looking for industry jobs instead of doing their duty to protect and serve. This enables dangerous conditions to be hidden from the public and endangering lives. DEP either will not or cannot, because the field investigators are uneducated, properly investigate complaints. They cannot monitor the drilling and cementing process but think nothing of saying there are “no violations”. A moratrium is necessary but I doubt that any senator or state rep will be able to go against the system successfully.

    • Richard T. Desvernine Jr.

      81% polled want to know the ingredients. We want to know about the endocrine disruptors and carcinogens in frack fluid that are leaking and leeching into our aquifers. The people are well beyond the point where they want to tip-toe around it. Either disclose the chemicals or acknowledge that endocrine disruptors, that can cause DNA damage in subsequent generations, and carcinogens are in frack fluid.

    • JimBarth

      Mr. Henderson’s comment is meaningless. As those of us who have followed this travesty of shale gas extraction closely, the following tells us the true reality.

      That is, Industries, Corporations, inflict approximately 85,000 chemicals upon us, and, our environment. Of these synthetics, less than 100 have been studied, or investigated, let alone tested.

      We don’t really know what they are, we don’t know their impacts, cumulative, interactive, or individual. We don’t know what volume is a danger, yet, they are allowed to be used.

      The chemicals are not regulated, period.

      How would Act 13, therefore, be “most protective”. What is it more protective than, nothing?

    • Doug Shields

      baloney sandwich anyone? Act 13 – What of the matter of “incompatible use” with the pre-emption of all local zoning ordinances – just for Oil & Gas Operations. Gag orders for physicians. Shielding information requests to PA EPA, DCNR because they don’t have the data that these wondrous regs require the drillers to maintain but not submit to the state. PUC is exempt from Open Records requirements. The trade secret exemption – exempts disclosure. Add to that, there was no real input from we, the people. No public hearings throughout the state, no meaningful consultations with local government officials, no environmental impact study, no health risk assessment. Act 13 is the worst law corporate money could buy.

    • Lincoln


  • Stephen Cleghorn

    This is good news, shows that slowly the people of PA are learning about the current impacts and the serious long-term risks of this extreme form of fossil fuel extraction. I hope enough wake up and demand a stop before it is too late for large swaths of our state and many hundreds of people and animals who will suffer and die from exposure to various aspects of the drilling. Those still looking into this may want to visit my online PowerPoint that makes the case for a moratorium (self-advances with your clicks, so do it at your own pace).

  • metroeco

    The only candidate for Pennsylvania governor intending to ban fracking is the Green Party nominee:

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