U.S. Rep. John Salazar, already taking heat of late for his no vote on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, may also be hearing it from his constituents in Third Congressional District over his lack of support for Congresswoman Diana DeGette’s FRAC Act.
Two-thirds of the voters in the mostly rural Third District, which includes most of the natural-gas hotspots on the Western Slope, support the FRAC Act, according to a survey produced for the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) — a group of western agriculture and conservation groups.
Only 22 percent of the voters oppose the legislation, which would strip away a Safe Drinking Water Act exemption for the process of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) that was granted under the Bush administration in 2005 and is the only such industrial exemption under the act.
The process involves high-pressure injections of water, sand and undisclosed chemicals into gas wells to force open tight geological formations and free up more gas. Critics say fracking is leading to contamination of groundwater supplies and water wells near gas fields. Industry officials say the process is safe and chemicals must stay secret for competitive reasons.
The survey, conducted by Harstad Strategic Research and released Tuesday, was done by phone July 28-30 using a voter list in the Third District, which includes heavily drilled Garfield County. A total of 504 random telephone interviews were conducted, with an accuracy rate of plus or minus 4.4 percent.
Although he supported federal hydraulic fracturing legislation last year, Salazar has shied away this year, perhaps with an eye toward re-election in 2010: “I believe that developers may have legitimate concerns about the impact that removing the exemption may have on their ability to find and extract oil and gas,” he told Pro Publica in May. “But … the current regulatory approach is probably not sustainable and will probably need to be revised in some way.”
But the survey asked specifically about the FRAC Act, and 70 percent of the voters in the district’s more urban counties, Mesa and Pueblo, favor the FRAC Act, while 66 percent of the voters in the more rural counties favor the bill. Democrats support the bill by an 80-percent margin; Independents 79 percent; and Republicans 51 percent.
And 63 percent of the households that rely on farming and ranching support the bill; while 61 percent of the voters who hunt of fish support it. Salazar comes from a long line of ranching families in southern Colorado. His brother Ken, a former Colorado senator, is Secretary of the Interior.
For more on the survey, go to the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) website.