Despite pressure to ban fracking, majority of Coloradans support it

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A majority of Coloradans supports hydraulic fracturing, despite pressure to put the screws to the controversial practice.

A recent poll released by Quinnipiac University finds that 51 percent support fracking for natural gas and oil, with 34 percent opposed. Republicans overwhelmingly support the practice by 80-9 percent, and Democrats are mostly opposed, by 54-26 percent.

The results came out at the same time that Colorado announced tough new air control standards — including for releases of methane — that place new regulations on oil and gas development. The regulations were written in consultation with some of the biggest energy companies operating in Colorado and represent a rare détente between the Colorado’s Democratic-controlled government and industry.

But Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis — a foe of fracking who once filed a complaint with the state over a fracking rig near his weekend getaway — said earlier last week that the state lacks “common sense” regulations and puts homeowners at risk.

“Unfortunately the fracking rules are overseen by an oil and gas commission that is heavily influenced by the oil and gas industry,” he said on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday. “They don’t have at their disposal the independence or the ability to enact real penalties for violations of our laws and their charge is not first and foremost to protect homeowners and families and health.”

Polis represents three municipalities that recently voted to place moratoriums on fracking, in defiance of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s promise to sue communities that impose greater restrictions on oil and gas development than the state.

And Hollywood has recently gotten into the act as well, with celebrities like Darryl Hannah, Marisa Tomei and others recording a video to Hickenlooper urging him to ban fracking.

Despite the high profile pressure, industry groups are taking some comfort in the Quinnipiac poll.

“Despite the strong support for fracking, our work is far from over,” said Jon Haubert, spokesman for Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development, in a press release.

“In certain parts of Colorado, it’s evident that years of misinformation about fracking have had a negative impact on Coloradans,” he continued. “Even though we’ve been fracking since 1947, over 1.2 million times and more than 90 percent of today’s oil and natural gas wells are fracked at some point during their lifespan, some residents still admit to not knowing or understanding what fracking involves.”

But fracking opponents point to other polls done elsewhere in the United States showing less support, including a Public Policy Institute of California survey showing 53-32 percent opposition. While Pennsylvanians approve of fracking by 49-40 percent, two-thirds favor a moratorium to study the health risks, according to another poll.

A Hickenlooper spokesman told the Denver Post that the new regulations make Colorado a “national model and leader” on the issue.

Fracking activists are expected to put a statewide ban on the practice on the 2014 ballot.