WASHINGTON — The energy industry is taking a lesson from local Colorado elections that banned fracking in three cities and are focusing their efforts on an education campaign to prevent a similar initiative from taking hold in other key states.
A coalition created by energy companies that operate in Colorado says distortions about the process and effects of fracking – the hydraulic fracturing process used to extract natural gas from shale rock – led to the approval of a handful of local bans being approved earlier this month.
“It’s now evident that years of misinformation about fracking have had a negative impact on Coloradans,” said Jon Haubert, spokesman for Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED).
“Even though we’ve been safely fracking since 1947 and more than 90 percent of today’s oil and natural gas wells are fracked at some point during their lifespan, most residents admit to not knowing or understanding what it involves,” Haubert said.
“Some of the blame falls squarely on the oil and natural gas industry for not properly educating the public,” Haubert said.
The Colorado elections were mostly symbolic and restricted fracking activities within the city limits of the college towns where the measure was passed, and where less than a dozen wells presently operate.
However, the oil and natural gas industry in other regions of Colorado contributes significantly to the state’s economy generating nearly $30 billion last year through more than 100,000 jobs, and paid $1.6 billion to the state in taxes, according to a recent study by the University of Colorado at Boulder Leeds School of Business.
Andrew Browning at the Consumer Energy Alliance said Colorado’s elections should scare every company and community that relies on fracking for affordable energy, and warns that the results should not be dismissed as an anomaly.
“Consumer Energy Alliance firmly believes an educated public, no matter if they live in San Francisco or Pittsburgh, who understand how shale gas is produced and its effect on the environment and economy will turn back any measure to ban its practice,” Browning said in a memo last week to members.
“Understanding is key,” Browning said.
The alliance is mobilizing an education campaign in other states were efforts to enact similar bans are taking hold, including Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.