After years of ‘fracking,’ Pennsylvanians remain mixed about gas drilling

David Kay
Richard Stedman
By Stacey Shackford


Despite having an eight-year head start on Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction, Pennsylvania residents are just as uncertain about the effects of horizontal hydraulic drilling as New Yorkers, researchers at Cornell and Penn State have found.

And although they are generally more pessimistic about the potential positives of “hydrofracking,” New Yorkers are still more likely to support exploration of the Marcellus Shale than oppose it.

Richard Stedman, associate professor of natural resources at Cornell, presented the findings as one of three experts at a panel of the Agribusiness Economic Outlook Conference, held Dec. 13 at the Statler Hotel on campus.

“Uncertainty does not seem to go away over time, although Pennsylvania residents were more willing to accept it, given equal recognition of the impacts,” Stedman said.

He said an overwhelming majority of respondents to a survey of 6,000 households in the two states admitted to knowing nothing or very little about what to expect in terms of key economic and environmental effects of natural gas extraction.

Their trust of the key players involved in the gas drilling debate was also very low, although Pennsylvania residents were slightly more willing to trust gas companies than their New York counterparts, who considered scientists, cooperative extension specialists and environmental groups more trustworthy.

Nearly 40 percent of New Yorkers surveyed said they supported gas drilling, 30 percent said they were opposed to it, and 30 percent were neutral. In Pennsylvania, 47 percent indicated their support and almost 18 percent their opposition, with 34 percent neutral.

Tim Kelsey, professor of agricultural economics at Penn State, said uncertainty pervades everything having to do with gas drilling in his state, including scientific and economic analysis by experts, as there is not much reliable data.

“A lot of the discussion is based on anecdotes because this activity is relatively new,” he said. “We don’t yet have good secondary data on much of the impacts and implications.”.”

His own survey of 1,000 residents who lived within 1,000 feet of gas drilling wells in Pennsylvania’s Bradford and Tioga counties found that more than 52 percent reported a positive personal impact, 17 percent reported a negative impact, almost 4 percent said there were both positives and negatives, and almost 28 percent said they were unsure.

He said rural landowners, who hold the majority of the leases, tend to be more positive.

“You don’t see that level of perceived benefit among rank-and-file community members,” he added.

Kelsey said he’s found it difficult to gauge effects on municipalities and agriculture.

Emergency services have had to respond to increased call loads, and roads in rural areas with poor infrastructure have taken a beating, but residents report the gas companies have been very responsive in repairing damage.

“I have yet to talk to a municipality that has said its taxpayers are bearing the burden,” he said.

Most of the state’s farmland is located away from the Marcellus Shale. But farms located near wells have reported some challenges, including access to their fields, transportation, competition for labor and public perceptions, as some people question the quality or safety of food produced on drilling sites, Kelsey said.

David Kay, a senior extension associate in Cornell’s Department of Development Sociology, said uncertainty about the pace, scale and geography of drilling sites is one of the biggest challenges when reviewing the economic impacts of natural gas extraction.

“I would exercise caution in believing those hyping the economic benefit, but also those condemning it because of environmental impacts. It is all determined by how many wells are being drilled,” Kay said.

Stacey Shackford is a staff writer in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

NAAEE Research Symposium

The North American Association of Environmental Education (NAAEE) had their 8th annual Research Symposium on October 11-12.

Several members of the DNR community were involved in this year’s symposium, entitled “Branching to the Future, Rooted in Time.”

Erin Kelly was a coordinator and did program production.

Prof. Marianne Krasny is the Chair of the NAAEE Research Commission.

Alex Kudryavtsev, Jesse Delia and Prof. Marianne Krasny all gave presentations at the event.

Yue Li participated as a conference assistant.


Check out the event’s program here: NAAEE


Tidball Explored Disaster Relief

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, Associate Director of the Civic Ecology Lab at Cornell University Keith Tidball led a discussion on environmental justice at Hobart and William Smith College. The discussion was a part of the Global Citizenship: Social and Environmental Justice conference.

Tidball continued on the topic started by Dr. Helen Caldicott, the renowned anti-nuclear war activist. His research focuses “on the interactions between humans and nature; particularly how these interactions relate to social-ecological system resilience.”

His discussion, entitled “Recovery and Resilience in the Aftermath of Disasters,” included a panel of HWS students who fundraised for the recent natural disasters in Japan, Haiti, and Hurricane Katrina. He spoke about possible plans for the future that would be helpful on the HWS campus when looking at social and environmental justice issues.

Tidball is program leader for the Nature and Human Security Program and the Communities and Urban Forests Extension Program at Cornell University. He is also the New York State Coordinator for the NY Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN).

To read the announcement about the discussion, visit the Hobart and William Smith College’s website:

2011 Global Environmental Action Conference Tokyo, Japan

Sr. Extension Associate Keith Tidball was invited to present at the GEA International Conference 2011 entitled Building Sustainable Societies through Reconstruction, Working with the International Community for Regenerating Japan,” held in Tokyo, Japan on 14th and 15th of October, 2011. The Conference was opened with the attendance of H.I.H Crown Prince, Naruhito, GEA Chairman, Mr. Juro Saito and Mr.Yoshihiko Noda Prime Minister of Japan. Director-General of GEA, Ms. Wakako Hironaka presided over the Conference as its Chair. Sr Extension Associate Keith Tidball.

Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito

Japan’s Prime Minister Noda

Keith  Tidball of Cornell University Civic  Ecology Lab and NY EDEN

The conference was organized by the Global Environmental Action (GEA) supported by the Government of Japan, namely, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and Ministry of the Environment. The Conference aimed to undertake a high-level policy dialogue in order to articulate concrete measures to realize sustainable societies not only in Japan, but also in the international community, capitalizing on Japan’s experience of the recent earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters.

Integrating Ecological and Socioeconomic Monitoring of Working Forests

This is an interesting paper from the August 2011 issue of BioScience. Be sure to check it out!


Large-scale sell-offs of industrial timberlands in the United States have prompted public and private investments in a new class of “working forest” land deals, notable for their large size and complex divisions of property rights. These transactions have been pitched as “win-win-win” deals that provide social, economic, and ecological benefits. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars invested in these transactions, we found a paucity of evidence that their supposed benefits are being realized. Monitoring programs necessary to gather such evidence tend to be underfunded, short term, and focused on a limited set of indicators. The few projects with more comprehensive monitoring programs had long-term funding sources, formal mechanisms for incorporating data into subsequent management decisions, and combined multidisciplinary monitoring techniques. We propose that a relatively modest allocation of funds to monitoring could help assessand hopefully improvethe effectiveness of current and future transactions, to see if the promise of “win-win-win” is actually delivered.

BioScience6l: 631-637. ISSN 0006-3568, electronic ISSN 1525-3244. © 2011 by American Institute of Biological Sciences. All rights reserved. Request permission to photocopy or reproduce article content at the University of California Press’s Rights and Permissions Web site at reprintinfo.asp. doi:10.1525/bio.2011.61.8.10 August 2011 / Vol. 61 No. 8 • BioScience