Poll finds bad feelings toward Colo gas industry | VailDaily.com

Poll finds bad feelings toward Colo gas industry

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” A recent poll of Colorado voters shows that a majority of them have negative feelings toward the oil and gas industry. A majority of voters also support responsible drilling over rapid oil and gas development, survey results show.

Forty-two percent of Western Slope poll participants, who made up about 13 percent of the 500 people polled, had a favorable view of the oil and gas industry, while 52 percent viewed the industry unfavorably, said Craig Hughes, director of research for Denver-based RBI Strategies and Research, which conducted the poll from July 25-30.

Statewide, 35 percent of those surveyed described their feelings toward the oil and gas industry as “very” or “somewhat” favorable. Sixty percent of the respondents described their attitudes of the industry as unfavorable, with 36 percent out of that group describing their feelings as “very unfavorable,” according to the poll.

The poll was released a week before commissioners on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission begins deliberating about whether to approve new rules for the state’s oil and gas industry, a process that has been embroiled in controversy for the last nine months. The poll was paid for by the Colorado Environmental Coalition, a group that supports the new rules.

RBI Strategies and Research randomly selected and interviewed 500 voters from an updated list of registered voters who were likely to cast a ballot in this year’s election. The poll has a margin of error of 4.38 percent, with a confidence level of 95 percent, according to a memo summarizing the poll’s findings.

The sample was 40 percent Republican, 37 percent Democratic and 23-percent registered unaffiliated, Hughes said.

Elise Jones, executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, said contrary “to the industry’s massive, record profits-funded PR blitz, Coloradans don’t believe we should drill at any cost.”

“They don’t want to drill everywhere, and they don’t want to sacrifice their health or the quality of their drinking water in the process,” she said.

Jon Bargas, director of public affairs for the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States (IPAMS), said the Colorado Environmental Coalition should count the oil and gas industry among the majority of Coloradans who believe that energy development should be done in a responsible manner.

“That’s why our industry, perhaps the most regulated in the world, adheres to literally thousands of local, state and federal regulations while supplying Americans with the energy they need every day,” he said. “Our industry goes above and beyond what’s required to ensure that the impact of development on our environment and the communities in which we all live and play remains small and temporary.”

Results from across the state, on the Western Slope

More than two-third of respondents said they agreed that drilling should be done “in a safe, responsible way or not at all in certain areas,” with 47 percent “strongly” supporting that approach, according to a memo summarizing the survey’s findings.

Twenty-seven percent of survey participants supported an alternative approach that emphasized “opening up additional areas for drilling and reducing regulations and red tape in the drilling process,” the memo said.

When surveyors asked Western Slope participants about responsible drilling versus reducing regulations, 22 percent of respondents preferred less regulation, while 74 percent were for responsible drilling, Hughes said.

Of those Western Slope respondents who answered that question, 53 percent strongly support responsible drilling. It was the second highest rate in the state behind the Denver area, Hughes said.

“We are surprised by the results of this survey,” Bargas said. “It’s hard to imagine that anyone wouldn’t support responsible energy development in Colorado.”

Silt-area resident Lisa Bracken, who lives about a 1/4-mile away from drilling rigs and who is currently tangling with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission about a potential gas seep she says is occurring in the area, said she was encouraged by the polling results.

“We just experience impact after impact,” she said. “For me, (the survey results are) a ray of sunshine.”

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