US voters strongly support developing resources on public lands, giving states more control over regulating such activities, and lifting the ban on exporting crude oil produced in the US, concluded a survey commissioned by the Western Energy Alliance.
The national telephone survey of 1,000 likely voters Apr. 12-16 by the Tarrance Group found 77% support giving states complete or shared authority with the federal government in managing and regulating activities on public lands within their borders.
When it came to overseeing energy development on public lands, 62% favored giving prime authority to state and local governments, while 34% preferred the federal government. For wildlife conservation, 73% favored state agencies for management within their boundaries, and 79% supported updating the federal Endangered Species Act to give state agencies more control, the survey said.
It found 57% of the respondents felt Congress should overturn the 1975 crude oil export ban to allow trade with allied nations. Majority support exists for reversing the export ban across political parties, with 65% among Republicans and 51% among both Democrats and Independents, WEA said.
A combined 62% of the survey’s respondents felt general US policies were moving in the wrong direction, with 50% having a favorable impression of how oil and gas are produced in the US and 35% having an unfavorable impression.
More member call-ups
WEA released the survey’s results as it began the second of four scheduled 2015 call-ups to Washington for members to discuss their concerns with congressional delegations and regulatory agencies. More frequent visits let more of the Denver-based regional independent producers organization’s members participate, Pres. Tim Wigley said.
“Our concern remains with the federal permitting process and the time it takes to actually get one—close to a year now,” he told OGJ. “States don’t have rules which are more lax. They’re simply more efficient. They’re closer to the ground and know what’s going on.”
Agencies in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, and North and South Dakota already regulate unconventional oil and gas exploration and production aggressively on private and state land within their borders, which makes the US Bureau of Land Management’s proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations unnecessary there, Wigley said.
WEA is working now to convince voters in other parts of the country that this is not simply a regional problem, he said. Opponents’ intensified national campaigns have created a false general impression that oil and gas is regulated lightly if at all, especially as fracing and horizontal drilling move activity into parts of the country which previously had no oil and gas development experience, he said.
This is particularly true in Colorado, which leads the US in the number of residents who have been there for less than 5 years, Wigley said. “The industry is trying to understand their concerns,” he told OGJ. “Company representatives go door-to-door to let people know their development plans and invite them to see how a modern rig works. Producers keep working to keep noise down and reduce road and traffic impacts.
What’s in it for them
“It’s also become apparent that local governments do not have the budgets or expertise to regulate these new operations. State help clearly is needed,” Wigley said. “As an industry, we have to communicate to people who don’t work in the business what’s in it for them in tax and other contributions to their communities. Our own members usually are the best advocates.”
Alliances with hunting and fishing groups which also want more land access is a natural fit, he noted. “When we try to prepare for a ballot measure, we try to show the Girl Scouts and other groups how much our members support their efforts. Some of our strongest messengers are front-line employees who visit their neighbors. It’s a campaign mentality that’s not partisan, but very strategic,” he said.
Wigley said it’s also starting to lay foundations for the 2016 federal elections in another 18 months. “We’re trying to affect races across the nation,” he told OGJ. “Our [political action committee] priority was to flip the US Senate because we didn’t like the job Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was doing as majority leader. There will be more challenges for Republicans in 2016.”
There also will be a race to elect Barack Obama’s successor as president, he said. “Even though he’s not officially running yet, Jeb Bush met with 250 oil and gas industry people when he visited Colorado recently,” Wigley said. “We’re ready to meet with candidates from both parties.”
Contact Nick Snow at [email protected].