Poll: Pennsylvanians OK With Drilling, But Not In State Forests

  • Scott Detrow

Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A truck drives to a drilling site in Sproul State Forest

A new poll from Franklin and Marshall College sheds some light on how Pennsylvanians view Marcellus Shale drilling.
By and large, respondents think extraction is a good thing: nearly seven in ten people surveyed hold a favorable view of the industry, and 39 percent think its economic benefits outweigh possible environmental damage. (That’s compared to 35 percent of people putting the environment first, and a quarter of respondents unsure of their view.) “Pennsylvanians see good things coming out of the drilling,” explains poll director Terry Madonna. “They see jobs, they see increased spending. They see tax revenues going up.”
Pennsylvanians are split, on whether or not drilling has “improved or reduced the quality of life in those communities where drilling is taking place.” 35 percent think it’s helping northeast and southwest Pennsylvania, 26 percent say it’ made things worse, and four in ten don’t know the answer.

Opinion shifts from murky to crystal-clear, when it comes to two legislative issues: a extraction tax or impact fee, and whether or not to lease out more forest land for natural gas drilling. 62 percent want to impose a levy on drillers – that’s below the often-quoted 69 percent Quinnipiac figure – and a whopping 72 percent want to see state and local government share the revenue. Just 12 percent think fee or tax money should stay at the local level, even though Governor Tom Corbett and many top Republican lawmakers say statewide distribution is off the table, if an impact fee happens.
“So the takeaway here is, Pennsylvanians say, yep, let’s tax,” says Madonna. “Let’s divide the tax between local communities and the state. Yes, the industry is doing the right thing. They’re doing a good job, but oh, by the way, you better be careful about the environment.”
Should Pennsylvania lease more state forest land for drilling? 72 percent oppose another lease sale, with 22 percent favoring the idea. A bit more than 700,000 acres of forest land has already been leased for drilling – about twenty percent of that for hydraulic fracturing. Madonna boils that down to, “The residents of our state say keep your hands off our state forest land,” Last Friday’s Radio Smart Talk focused on drilling in state forests, and an upcoming StateImpact Pennsylvania report will take a look at the issue.
The Franklin and Marshall College poll has a 4.3 percent margin of error. It surveyed 407 Pennsylvanians – 216 Democrats, 140 Republicans, 42 independents and nine people who refused to identify their party.

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