Napalm Creek

America’s Fracking Concerns

The Checks and Balances Project
January 10, 2011

Studies across the nation reveal legitimate worries exist across party lines

Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” as it is more commonly known, is a growing concern in the minds of many Americans according to a recent national survey. Fracking is the practice of sticking toxic chemicals into the ground to get to natural gas. And as the practice increases so too have worries surrounding water contamination.

As 2010 wound down a study by the Civil Society Institute revealed that more and more Americans became aware of fracking as a method for natural gas extraction from coast to coast. But the survey didn’t just reveal that Americans had heard of fracking, but it also showed that large numbers of citizens have health concerns about the practice.

The study, “Fracking and Clean Water: a Survey of Americans” showed that 60 percent of respondents had at least some awareness of the fracking issue. Of those who said they were aware of the practice, 40 percent claimed they were “very concerned” about the practice’s affect on drinking water, while another 30 percent said they were “somewhat concerned” about the practice’s affect of drinking water.

The awareness of the fracking issue as well as the concerns about its relation drinking water supplies is noteworthy because the issue was virtually unknown just a few years ago.

“If you asked someone for his or her take on fracking two or three years ago, your question would have likely been greeted with a confused gaze,” wrote Pennsylvania journalist Leah Zerbe. But now, with fracking happening in nearly 40 states, Zerbe says the awareness and concerns surrounding fracking have clearly grown.

Perhaps most interesting about the growing concerns about fracking is that they are bi-partisan in nature: 57 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of self-identified Independents and 86 percent of Democrats were among those claiming they were concerned about the practice. Those are pretty strong numbers at a time in America’s history when it is difficult to get the electorate to agree upon anything.

Moreover, less than a year after 80 percent of Americans said they don’t trust our government, the Civil Society Institute’s study shows that 78 percent of respondents “strongly” support “tighter public disclosure requirements as well as studies of the health and environmental consequences of the chemicals used in natural gas drilling.” However, the same study shows that 56 percent of Americans who are aware of fracking feel that state and federal officials are not doing “as much as they should,” and 49 percent say they aren’t doing “anything at all” to require proper disclosure of the chemicals used in natural gas drilling.

The scope of these feelings is also worth noting. It is not just limited to the heavily fracked parts of Pennsylvania or the politically charged drumlins ??? of central New York. In Wyoming, where fracking was practically invented and is practiced in small towns like Pavillion, a study reveals that residents feel gas drilling has polluted their water wells and that four out of five residents of the Pavillion area have reported headaches, nausea, itchy skin, dizziness and other ailments since production began in their town. In Colorado, where the number of gas wells has grown from 200 to 1,300 over the last ten years, methane levels in nearby water wells are reported to have increased as well.

All of these numbers combine to reveal a clear consensus. Americans are aware of fracking. While it is hard to determine if this concern began with Josh Fox’s “Gasland” movie last year or if the concern is simply the result of growing reports of water contamination near fracked lands, it’s easy to tell that eyebrows have been raised and people are demanding accountability when it comes to what is in their drinking water and under their property.

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