University of Pittsburgh
November 19, 2012

Marcellus Shale Drilling Viewed as Both Positive and Negative by Pittsburghers

New PittsburghTODAY report shows that Pittsburgh residents view Marcellus Shale drilling as economic opportunity, environmental risk
Rate of residents who support drilling higher in Washington County
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—While most Pittsburgh citizens see Marcellus Shale drilling as a chance to give the local economy a boost, they also worry about the associated environmental and health risks, according to data released today by PittsburghTODAY and the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for Social and Urban Research. 

Findings in the Marcellus Shale Brief come from the 120-question Pittsburgh Regional Quality of Life Survey released earlier this year, Pittsburgh’s most comprehensive recent regional survey.

“In Washington County—where the Marcellus 'shoe' fits most snugly—residents believe more strongly in the benefits of drilling, but they also have concerns about environmental effects,” said Douglas Heuck, director of PittsburghTODAY, which coordinated the survey.

The report’s key findings follow.

Economic Support

  • More residents overall support drilling than oppose it by a margin of 45 percent to 25 percent, with the rest in neither camp. 
  • In Washington County, the rates of support are higher, with more people having a strong opinion on the issue. 
  • More than 70 percent of Pittsburghers and 76 percent of those in Washington County feel that extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale offers a significant or moderate economic opportunity for the region. 

Environmental Concern

  • Eight in 10 residents believe drilling poses at least a slight threat to the environment and public health.
  • Fifty-five percent see drilling as either a significant or moderate threat to the environment or public health. Fifty-eight percent feel this way in Washington County. 
  • Only 17 percent believe drilling poses no or little threat to the environment or public health. 

Included in the Marcellus Shale Brief were 430 residents of Washington County—an oversampling to best reflect the views of those living in a highly active drilling area. Washington County was home to 656 natural gas wells as of July 2012, and nearly 32 percent of Washington County residents report that they or a family member have signed a drilling lease. To compare, Allegheny County only had 13 wells, and 14 percent of residents in other counties reported signing a drilling lease. 

Notably, the higher the level of a person’s education, the more likely he/she was to say that natural gas offers economic opportunities. In turn, those educated individuals were also more likely to see Marcellus shale as a public health and environmental threat.  

Data for the Marcellus Shale Brief were gathered during telephone interviews with some 2,200 men and women residing in the seven-county Pittsburgh Statistical Metropolitan Area and in 25 surrounding counties in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland. 

From the University Center for Social and Urban Research, regional economist Christopher Briem and Pitt’s Urban and Regional Analysis Program Director Sabina Deitrick were involved in creating the survey. 

The report and additional information are available on the PittsburghTODAY website in the special reports section: www.pittsburghtoday.org/special_reports.html

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11/19/12/mab/cjhm

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