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Fracking, Drilling Find Support in Western Elections

Defeat of an anti-drilling measure in Santa Barbara County, CA, and the re-election of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Tuesday provided new encouragement to industry-backed supporters of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and continued development of the nation's unconventional energy resources.

In Colorado, the narrow re-election of Hickenlooper preserves a compromise process he helped to develop last summer to avoid statewide anti-drilling ballot measures. He pushed through the establishment of a statewide task force now at work on legislative recommendations to be issued by February for resolving the local concerns on oil and gas activity throughout the state (see Shale Daily, Aug. 5).

The debate has spawned the creation of statewide pro-industry groups, such as Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) and Protecting Colorado's Environment, Economy and Energy Independence (Protect).

The election results Tuesday “provide additional confirmation that Coloradans support those on both sides of the political aisle who stand up and speak out in favor of responsible energy development, including fracking,”  said Protect spokeswoman Karen Crummy. “We support the important work the task force is doing and have confidence its members will find a compromise that is beneficial to all Coloradans.”

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), which has supported Hickenlooper and his efforts to find common ground, indicated it will continue to work with state and federal elected officials, calling the industry an bipartisan issue for elected officials.

“We congratulate all the candidates who were elected or re-elected to public office last night; it takes a great deal of determination and dedication to run for office,” said COGA CEO Tisha Schuller. “We look forward to working with [newly elected Republican] Sen. Cory Gardner, Gov. Hickenlooper, and our state senators and representatives.

“I am proud that this year oil and gas was a uniting, rather than divisive issue, supported by elected leaders of both parties.  Together we can continue to grow this great state’s economic prosperity while remaining a national environmental leader and helping to further our nation’s energy security.”

Measure P in Santa Barbara, which would have effectively shut down drilling throughout the county, was soundly rejected with 62% of the voters casting ballots against an attempt to handcuff the oil and gas industry, which is a major part of the county's economy.

No-on-Measure-P campaign communications director Jim Byrne told reporters Wednesday that the campaign strategy was to frame the ballot measure as a referendum on the future of all oil and gas production in Santa Barbara County and the devastating impact the proposed ban on high-intensity extraction methods like steam injection would have on local jobs and county government revenues.

The California Independent Producers Association (CIPA), the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and the California chapter of the National Association of Royalty Owners, along with various union locals, were solidly lined up against Measure P and poured millions of dollars into the local effort to defeat it.

As outlined at the recent Gas Awards’ West Coast Energy Summit in Bakersfield, CA, companies operating in the county, such an Santa Maria Energy Co. and E&B Natural Resources, have been carrying on proactive outreach efforts in the community, supported by mass media advertising and aggressive use of social media to talk about the economic benefits of the industry (see Shale Daily, Oct. 22).

WSPA's Tupper Hull said at last month’s meeting that California and other states are facing "probably the most vigorous, organized and well-funded opposition to the fundamental process of producing, refining, and retailing petroleum products" the industry has ever witnessed.

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