As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports, there's a simple reason why the oil and gas industry and their political allies are losing their minds about ballot measures supported by Rep. Jared Polis to increase local control over drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
It looks like they're going to pass.
The poll from Benenson Strategy Group asked voters about two of the proposed ballot measures, both backed by Polis, D-Boulder. Initiative 88 would require drilling rigs to be set back 2,000 feet from homes — four times the current state rule. Initiative 89 would create the so-called Environmental Bill of Rights…
The measure changing existing setback requirements to require any new oil or gas well to be located at least one half mile from the nearest occupied structure initially passed 64 percent to 21 percent, then 56 percent to 35 percent after poll recipients were read a series of negative arguments against the measure — the same arguments Coloradans will hear on the campaign trail.
For those who don't know, Joel Benenson is Barack Obama's lead pollster, and his firm has a reputation for accuracy. And as you can see, this was no leading-questions poll: respondents were subjected to the industry's arguments against the initiatives, and they would still pass.
The other measure includes a provision that if state and local laws conflict the more restrictive law or regulation governs. It initially passed 64 percent to 27 percent, then, after the negative arguments, it passed 52 percent to 34 percent.
As readers know, the rhetoric over these initiatives has really become extreme in recent weeks, with lobbyist Steve Durham bombastically denouncing Polis as a "terrorist" for supporting them. What we're seeing here is the other side of the coin: strong and enduring public support for better protection of local communities from the harmful effects of drilling.
News coverage of these initiatives so far has been unusually one-sided in favor of the oil and gas industry, and overly focused on the failing effort by Gov. John Hickenlooper to broker a "compromise" that would "keep these measures off the ballot." Lost in that narrative, much to the industry's relief, is something critically important: what the people of Colorado want.
But they won't be able to ignore the votes this fall.