Environment & Energy
12:05 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

Survey Says: Most Pittsburghers Favor Environment over Economy

A new survey by the University of Pittsburgh and PittsburghTODAY found that 65 percent of the region’s citizens view air quality as either a minor problem, or not a problem at all.

This is despite continually low air quality rankings by the American Lung Association.

Doug Heuck, Director of PittsburghTODAY, said many people mistakenly think that because they can’t see the air pollution, it’s not there.

“They still either remember or they have read about the smoky city days, when you had to turn on your car lights at 9:30 in the morning,” said Heuck. “By comparison, the air looks clean. The trouble is, we have this tiny particulate matter, some of it produced here, some of it coming in from the West.”

This was just one of many findings released Thursday as part of the Pittsburgh Regional Environment Survey.

The survey also found that more than 55 percent of respondents think the environment should take priority over the economy. While almost 80 percent said natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale provides either a significant or moderate economic opportunity, about 59 percent said it poses a significant or moderate threat to public health and to the environment.

“What you see is, I think, a situation where people hope we continue to get the economic benefits of that industry, and steps are taken to make sure the environment is protected,” said Heuck.

There did seem to be wide consensus on one specific hydraulic fracturing issue: more than 95 percent of respondents said they think the components of the fluid used in the fracking process should be publicly disclosed.

Additionally, the survey revealed that citizens are taking action to save energy in their everyday lives. 95 percent of respondents said they turn off lights and electronics when they leave a room, 74 percent said they try to take short showers, 63 percent turn down the thermostat at night and when they’re not home, and 42 percent are reducing gasoline use by carpooling or using public transportation.

Heuck said, though this is the first time PittsburghTODAY has done this survey, they hope to repeat it in the future.

“One survey gives a snapshot, but continuing to take the pulse of the region …. that does give you the longer term and more valuable information,” said Heuck.

He also said he hopes environmental groups will be able to apply the information to their work, and that legislators will use it to inform policy decisions both at the municipal and state levels.

“The people are speaking on this issue, and it’s an issue of terrific importance to all of us who live here,” said Heuck.

Heuck sees a healthy environment as an important driver of a healthy economy, a viewpoint echoed by 96 percent of survey respondents.

“With people being increasingly mobile, they choose where they want to live. People, especially young people with options, will choose regions that have a clean and healthy environment,” said Heuck.

The survey was conducted by phone with 800 residents in the 7-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area. Roughly half the respondents lived within Allegheny county, while the other half hailed from Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland counties.

Read the full report on the PittsburghTODAY website.