Mountain Drilling Fracking Rig oil gas

Oil and gas drilling is one of Colorado's chief industries, especially in Weld County and long the northern Front Range.

Colorado voters who live near fracking operations are likely to be more supportive of the industry, according to a new study.

Authors Daniel Raimi and Alan Krupnick of the Resources for the Future, and Morgan Bazilian of the Payne Institute for Public Policy at the Colorado School of Mines, reviewed precinct-level election data from the 2018 Colorado election that resulted in the defeat of the controversial Proposition 112.

"Drilling rigs and pump jacks are old hat in some regions, while the industry is relatively new in others. At the same time, the state’s Front Range – stretching north and south from Denver along the eastern edge of the Rockies – is growing rapidly, with newcomers from around the United States relocating to Colorado and, often to their surprise, finding themselves in the midst of a suburban oil and gas boom," the study’s authors wrote in a commentary piece on their research for Resources magazine this month.

They concluded that the political affiliations of voters strongly correlates with the support for and against oil and gas development. Additionally, voters who live in communities with higher concentrations of oil and gas industry activities are more likely to support the industry, the report found. Support weakens, though, in communities where industry development has grown quite rapidly. 

“We come to three major conclusions: (1) proximity to oil and gas development is associated with increased industry support; (2) this effect is weakened when we control for partisan preferences, which is a strong predictor of industry support; and (3) industry support is lower in areas where drilling activity has increased the most since 2000,” the study’s authors concluded.  

The study was recently published in the academic journal Energy Research & Social Science and will appear in the publication’s June print edition.

During the 2018 election, Proposition 112 was lauded by environmental groups as needed protection for Coloradoans living near drilling operations. Voters decided against the measure that would have prohibited extraction operations from within 2,500 feet of residential zones, schools, streams and other developments.

The state’s oil and gas regulator, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, found that Prop. 112 would have eliminated 80 percent of the state’s surface area for further exploration. Nearly 56 percent of the state’s voters rejected Prop. 112 in 2018. 

The political committee that backed Prop. 112 has already filed six new ballot measures similar to the failed Prop. 112. The committee Colorado Rising announced on Feb. 6 that the proposed measures made it past the first round of title board hearings that would formalize the measures.

The Center Square is a project of the 501(c)(3) Franklin News Foundation, headquartered in Chicago.


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