The more the public learns about fracking, the less it likes


There was a lot of talk with the start of the New Year that the new movie “Promised Land” — about a battle for drilling rights in natural-gas country — was going to be a game changer in the debate over the hydraulic fracturing process, or fracking. Many industry officials and lobbyists were terrified that the Hollywood treatment — with director and star Matt Damon — would influence the opinion of citizens who had not paid much attention to the controversy over gas drilling before now.

That didn’t exactly happen — some environmentalists believe that the movie pulls its punches on the worst abuses of the gas industry, and reviews for the film have been mixed. But there’s something else going on. The public was already changing its mind even before “Promised Land” was released. It turns out that millions of folks didn’t need a big-screen motion picture to learn there are serious problems with the fracking process; instead, many have grown wary about gas drilling because they read the newspaper or the Internet, or talked to their neighbors.

Check out the latest numbers:

A recent Bloomberg National Poll found that 66 percent of Americans want more government oversight of fracking–a big increase over the last three months. Some people completely oppose fracking, but even those who don’t want tough rules and enforcement. Bloomberg quotes a Virginia resident as saying: ““I’m a big proponent of natural gas, but I still need to be sure that we are not damaging our water supply.” Many Americans share this view.

Another poll by ORCInternational for the Civil Society Institute and Environmental Working Group found that 94 percent of Americans want to balance new energy production with protecting clean water and air–including 92 percent of Republicans. And they found that 79 percent of Americans are concerned about fracking “as it relates to water quality” and that 80 percent of Americans think we “should get the facts first about health and environmental risks before the potential damage is done by energy production” — including 67 percent of Republicans.

These polls reflect a great consensus across the political spectrum. Even political conservatives agree that we need to know a lot more about the risks of fracking before expanding fracking without the right rules in place.

The wisdom of the American people is spot on here. The issue is not whether fracking should be rejected outright. We have the ability to drill for natural gas in a safe fashion, but there needs to be a lor more rules and much better regulation to make sure that happens. But you have to ask what has changed public opinion so quickly. Maybe it’s stories like this:

 A Cleveland, Ohio, mother is fearing for her family’s safety after the tap water in their home caught alight, causing a ‘huge explosion.’

Debby Kline was lighting a candle near the sink a few weeks ago when the water suddenly ignited, creating a fireball in the bathroom.

‘Oh I was so scared. It just was a huge explosion, the entire sink up to the ceiling,’ Kline told the Today show.

People see the pro-fracking ads on TV — and then they hear from a woman whose water is catching fire, and they know something is not right. Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a thorough review of the environmental issues surrounding fracking, with results not expected until next year. It’s a survey that should have come out five years ago. Once again, the public is out front of our so-called leaders.

To find out more from the NRDC about  public opinion souring on fracking, please read:

Read more about the Kline family and its inflammable tap water at:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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