Sunday, April 13, 2014

How many NYers are involved in the fight against fracking?

Engineers are good at making reasonable estimates based on incomplete information. I enjoy doing these kinds of numerical analyses. We call them "guesstimates". The goal is to get "close", which to a scientist usually means "within an order of magnitude of truth".
Estimating the number of NYers who are involved in the fight against fracking:

The two things we can look at where we have a good dataset are 1) local town bans, and 2) the number of public comments made on regulatory documents.

I've already blogged about these here:

We can't really infer much from the 200,000+ comments made on the Proposed NY regs, because it is likely that people made more than one comment.

If we pick a somewhat large number of comments-per-person (to be conservative) and say each person made 10 comments each (I made about five on the regs, if I recall correctly), then this means there were 20,000 unique people who made a comment.

First guesstimate: 20,000 people have filed a comment on the SGEIS or the Regs.

Next is the local town bans. According to Fractracker, the current totals are currently 75 municipalities* with bans, and 102 moratoria. (* cities and towns)

Source: Fractracker
So lets work with these numbers.

NY Cities62
NY Towns932
Total Municipalities:994
NY Population~19,500,000
Adjusted NY Pop
(discard NYC)
Avg Pop per Muni~19,600
Adjusted avg Pop per Muni11,360
Total Munis with protective
Population in protected munis (inc. NYC pop)~3,500,000
Adj. Population in protected munis~2,000,000

To get a ban or a moratorium in place, it requires active involvement of the citizens.

There are 4.3M registered voters in NY, so this means about 22% or 1:5 NYers vote.
This includes children, so that seem about right.

So lets assume that only 1/2 of the people who are registered to vote actually take part in elections, or would sign a petition. So we are saying only half of 22% or 11% of the population signed a petition.

This would be the minimum majority of registered voters (50% +1) needed to pass a YES/NO resolution.

So 11% of the 2,000,000 people who live in towns with a protective ordinance would be about 221,000 people. Let's call it 200,000.

There is our second estimate: 200,000 people have signed a petition for a protective ordinance.

NOTE: the numbers are likely much higher, due to the many towns in the Southern Tier who had active citizen efforts for a town ban, but which were refused for a vote by the town board. There are dozens of such towns.

So what defines "citizen engagement"?
Some ideas:
  • Attending a rally
  • Signing a petition for a ban
  • Filing comments on a regulatory proceeding
 So according to a very rough "guesstimate" we have a rough range of citizen involvement:

  20,000 people have filed a comment or attended a hearing
200,000 people have signed a petition for a ban

This seems about right, that about 1:10 petition signers are motivated enough to make a comment, so these numbers, calculated two different ways, both seem reasonable and pass initial "sanity checks".

How many people are actually opposed to Fracking in NY? Even if we take the Siena poll numbers, which are highly suspect, as we have pointed out (e.g., they do not show any indication in growth over 4 years, when other indicators show exponential growth), NYers are 44% against fracking. with 19.5M people living in NY, this would make 8.4 million NYers who oppose fracking.

    20,000 people have filed a comment or attended a hearing
  200,000 people have signed a petition for a ban
8,400,000 people in NY oppose fracking

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