Pennsylvania

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Gas drilling may not be top issue for voters in Pa. governor’s race

Gov. Corbett promoting the Marcellus Shale earlier this year in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Marie Cusick/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Gov. Corbett promoting the Marcellus Shale earlier this year in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

The contributions of Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania from jobs to environmental impacts are still widely debated. But according to an Associated Press report, a recent poll shows it may not be the primary issue for voters in the 2014 gubernatorial race.

Pollster Joseph Morris with Mercyhurst College in Erie told the AP that gas drilling is not foremost on the minds of Pennsylvanians who live outside the small, rural communities where the drilling is actually happening.

More from the AP:

An October Mercyhurst poll found 49 percent of the respondents were in favor of Marcellus Shale drilling, while 28 percent were opposed. But the poll also found that 61 percent of Pennsylvanians don’t believe that drilling companies “truly care about the environment,” and that 63 percent believe that “more regulations are needed.”

Morris said he thinks drilling “was probably more important when Corbett was running for governor the first time,” partly because the debate over issues, such as cuts to education funding, has grown.

He also said that Pennsylvania has a long history of viewing the environment differently than some northeastern or West Coast states.

“Pennsylvanians believe we should use the environment, we should just use it wisely,” Morris said. “This is fundamentally different from other types of environmentalism,” such as states where many people want to totally preserve large areas of land.

But while it may not be the most important issue for voters, drilling is certainly a main talking point on the campaign trail. It is also beginning to revive a debate over whether the state’s impact fee law is the most productive way to get the industry to give back to Pennsylvania communities.

Incumbent Tom Corbett frequently highlights the benefits of shale gas, while a crowded field of democratic challengers, including Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz and two former DEP secretaries, are calling for severance taxes and tighter regulations on the industry.

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