US support slips for stricter fracking rules

by on September 28, 2012 5:37 pm BST

Fifty-six percent of Americans said there needs to be more regulation of the technique, also called fracking, according to a Bloomberg National Poll conducted 21 to 24 September, the news wire said.

That figure is down from 65% in March. The share of respondents calling for less regulation of fracking rose to 29%, from 18% in March.

Gas prices have dropped 76% since July 2008 as producers use fracking, in which chemically treated water and sand are forced underground to break up rock and free hydrocarbons trapped in tight layers of rock.

In his 24 January State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said unconventionals production could support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade.

As more people realize the benefits of gas production “the more public support we’ll continue to see for this truly historic opportunity,” Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a Pittsburgh-based industry group, told the news wire.

Companies and industry groups, such as America’s Natural Gas Alliance in Washington, have sponsored advertisements that stress measures to protect the environment during drilling.

“The oil and gas industry have been blanketing the airwaves with ads that tout gas as our savior,” Kate Sinding, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York, said in an e-mail. “They’re using Big-Tobacco style smoke and mirrors messaging to deflect genuine concerns about the health threats.”

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney reported having greater faith in existing drilling rules, with only 32% calling for more regulation compared with 76% of Obama supporters. Among those who make less than $50,000 a year, 62% favor greater regulation compared to 53% of those earning $100,000 or more.

Because of fracking, the US is producing a glut of gas after warning four years ago of a need to boost imports. Owners of liquefied natural gas import terminals have proposed exports, and in April, Cheniere Energy won federal approval to build the largest U.S. natural-gas export terminal.

Gas from shale, fine-grained sedimentary rocks that trap the fuel, made up 23% of US production in 2010, and is forecast to rise to 49% by 2035, according to the Energy Department.

Fracking has been used in places such as Texas and Oklahoma since 1949 and is largely regulated by the states.

In Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, drillers are tapping the Marcellus Shale formation, which may be the largest U.S. gas field.

In the northeast, where drilling has boomed in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Marcellus, 69% favor more regulation compared with 55% in the west.

“Those numbers still show there’s a majority of people who want action, and in fact, I’d argue there seems to be growing concern in the specific communities that are currently being threatened by fracking,” Sinding said.

The Bloomberg poll of 1,007 adults was conducted by Selzer & Co., a Des Moines, Iowa-based firm. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.